It's a Resolution, Baby!

52 Weeks. 52 New Year's Resolutions.

Week 46. Resolution 46. Learn How to Frame Pictures. November 23, 2010

According to Wikipedia, “The ‘Great Australian Dream’ is a belief that home ownership can lead to a better life and is an expression of success and security.”  While not quite as grand as the American Dream of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” it does highlight that home ownership in this country is sadly more a dream for many than a given reality.  Admittedly, owning a home is high on my own list of dreams but not for any of the reasons society dictates.  My sole purpose for wanting to buy a house is so I can DECORATE IT.

My own suburban dream involves pulling into my driveway (in my Audi TT) and opening the door to a house drenched in art—because if I can’t own a gallery I will do my darndest to live in one.  The hallway, painted to look like an optical illusion, will lead to the bedroom designed by a specially commissioned artist, reminiscent of the hotel rooms found here. The living area will feature a wall entirely composed of postcards while any other walls not covered with framed art or photos will be stickered with Blik.  Somewhere a cabinet will display my collectible toys and figurines.  Other rooms will be themed.  One will be designed in vintage grandmother style with rocking chair, triptych of flying ducks (0r Guinness toucans if I can ever find them) and a collection of retro porcelain knick knacks.  Another will likely feature Middle Eastern decor.  I’m also considering covering one room entirely in mirrors with a selection of lamps dangling from the ceiling (Yayoi Kusama style).  The possibilities, much like the view in that room, are endless.

In order to bring this dream to fruition I’ve slowly amassed a drawer full of postcards, paintings, photos and prints just biding their time until they can hang proudly from my walls.  While I have gathered most of this stuff relatively cheaply from places like Etsy, art galleries or second hand shops, it’s the cost of framing that has always been my niggling concern.  The only way to really combat this problem was to learn to do it myself.  The only problem with combating THAT problem is that I am typically known to be all of THESE THINGS.

Cruising the net as I am oft want to do made me realise just how little I know about framing.  While the Internet is built to remedy what ails you, in this instance I found it just widened the void between myself and the knowledge I seek, because if you don’t really know what you’re doing you can’t really know what to search for.  Fortunately in my flailing desperation I happened across the website of ‘A1 Framing’ and found they were offering a local framing course for a relatively reasonable price of $95.  With a quick email sent off to ascertain whether the course catered to uncos (reply was:  “It is a beginners course – aimed for pretty well everyone. I don’t think you will have any issues”*) my problemo was solverooed.

* famous last words

We were each asked to bring to the class a) a pen and paper b) lunch c) two 5 x 7 pictures to frame.  Despite a drawer full of lovelies waiting to be framed the only thing I could find that was 5 x 7 was a book of Gama-Go postcards.  At my last trip to Ikea I picked up a couple of frames to later find the only thing that would fit them, again, were my Gama-Go postcards, so you can understand I was a bit frustrated by this turn of events.  On arrival at Bizarre Framing where the course was to be run you can understand my further frustration to discover that most of the other eight people had brought art of varying sizes (and no lunch).  Does this make them unreliable or me entirely anal?

To start the day we were each handed the four sides of an unassembled frame that we glued together and set with picture frame clamps.  Next we measured our pictures, working out a ‘sandwich’ size which is how big we would need to make our foam backing, glass and matt, before cutting our foamcore backing to this size.

(To give you some idea of the costs associated with DIY framing I will write approximate equipment prices after the tools we used.)

Our teacher, Deb, then called us together to show us how to use a handheld mat cutter and guide rail ($120) to give bevelled edges to the mat that surrounds the picture and acts to separate the picture from the glass.  We also learned how to hammer v-nails (like a v shaped staple) into the corners of our frame using a v-nail installation tool ($30) which ensures the pieces of the frame are firmly attached.  Afterwards we were let loose to attempt these things ourselves.

I have always been more interested in learning how to make mats than frames because it’s easy enough to pick up frames from second hand shops or places like Ikea but making the picture fit them is the tricky part.  Because such is my life, this was the part of the course I really struggled with.  We had to cut ten straight lines before attempting to make a proper mat but try as I might, I couldn’t manage it without either the cutting board, ruler or mat slipping all over the place.  The teacher sensed my frustration, taping my board to the table and putting some slip matting underneath the paper but I still just COULD NOT DO IT.

Eventually she lead me to a board-mounted mat cutter ($240) which was much easier to use comparatively although I still struggled with it initially.  Meanwhile another girl in the class was having a lot of trouble hammering in the v-nails and I dearly hoped I wouldn’t have problems with that as well since I’m seemingly uncoordinated at all forms of handiwork.  However I found these pretty easy to hammer in, and failing that you can use a v-nailer ($195) which stamps them in like a dream.  I was impressed by Deb’s method of teaching which made us try everything the inexpensive, difficult way first before showing us the easier, more expensive method.

After all this practice we then had to cut our mats for reals.  I kept badly stuffing this up, not because I couldn’t use the mat cutter properly, but because I kept cutting the mat on the wrong side or cutting the pieces too small to fit in the frame.  The teacher mistook this as me stuffing up the bevel cuts and made me practice using the mat cutter over and over although by this time I was practically an expert.  Sensing I was starting to fall behind the rest of the class I kept trying to sneak ahead but she pulled me up every time and made me keep practicing.

Meanwhile everyone else was taping their picture with acid free tape to the back of their mats and starting to saw their frames.  This was not as difficult as it sounds as the sawing equipment ($350) makes it easy to measure and clamp your wood and the saw is correctly angled and fine enough to cut a flat 45 degree surface.  By this stage I was running horribly behind.

Next we had to assemble our new frames and then cut the glass using a glass cutter ($50 oiled with Singer sewing machine oil).  I watched a quick glass cutting demonstration before having a go myself when the teacher wasn’t around.  No doubt you can guess how successful this attempt was.  I broke two pieces of glass, getting small shards of it in my hands before Deb realised what I was up to and without any frustration worked with me until we got a usable piece.  I was really beginning to admire her teaching style.  Initially I’d found her off-puttingly curt but as the day progressed she turned out to be one of the most patient and thorough teachers I’ve ever come across.

With the end in sight we learned how to hammer and bend nails into the back of our frames to hold everything in place which is much easier using a Flexipoint gun ($180) that stamps bendable tabs into the sides of the frame.

One of the girls in the class commented to me how I’d been surprisingly calm throughout the day to which I heartily laughed explaining that I tend to come across that way when meanwhile I’m dying of stress inside.

By now everyone else was finished and starting to leave (we were already 30 minutes overtime) although I was secretly glad that the other girl who’d struggled throughout the day was also running behind.  I hurriedly assembled my frames, stamped in the tabs, stuck acid free masking tape around the back, used an electric screwdriver to put in the hooks and tied a loose piece of string between them to hang on the wall.  Phew.  We each ended up with two framed pieces.

I now appreciate why framing is so expensive—it requires a variety of equipment and supplies and is so involved that it takes a four year apprenticeship to learn it all.  While you could probably set up your own studio for a couple of grand, it would be much more beneficial to team up with a group of people and establish a fully equipped space to share.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and interested in framing then Deb’s framing course is the one for you.  You may also be interested to note that A1 Framing will be running future courses in making shadow boxes and stretching photos onto canvases, among other things.  Just keep an eye on the website.

As for me, well I may be uncoordinated, but I still have a drawer of unframed art begging to see the light of day.  As it’s Christmas and since you’re feeling particularly generous I certainly wouldn’t complain if you were to buy me this Logan 301 Mat Cutter from eBay which is a steal at $185.  In return I’ll frame you a picture.  Deal?

 

Week 45. Resolution 45. Start a Business. November 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 3:54 PM
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As much as we love our pets, they’re not exactly the most functional of family members.  For instance, my dog won’t even fetch my slippers or make me lunch when I ask nicely.  And so, when it comes time to pack the family into a plane for the annual holiday, the pets are invariably left behind because they can’t be expected to sit still in their seat or refrain from attacking their neighbour for encroaching upon their personal space.  And who can blame them?  They’d only be doing what we were all thinking.

 

With jingle bells a-ringing and a family trip to Adelaide in the works we were stuck with the predicament of where to leave our precious pooch.  Unaware that kennels book out by mid-year our only option was to beg the neighbours for a favour or designate a family member to take one for the team and stay behind.  Desperate times call for desperate clichés but none so desperate as the couple I heard about via Twitter who felt they had to surrender their pet to an animal shelter rather than sacrifice their travel plans.  That’s when they were told about pet-sitting agencies.  HOLD UP.  Pet-sitting agencies???

 

I was drawn to the idea like catnip and before I’d even opened a Google window to investigate such a thing I’d already decided that this was the business for me.  I’ve looked after friend’s pets in the past but had no idea you could do it FOR MONEY.  With Dad on the look out for a small business to run during retirement and me always thinking of ways to make an extra buck in order to avoid the soul crushing rat race, could there be a more perfect business than one that combined my love for animals and Dad’s interest in dog training?  No.  No there could not.

 

Basically put, a pet-sitter will visit your home while you’re away, feed, play and walk your pets and look after any basic household duties to ensure the house doesn’t appear empty.  This basic service can then extend to any number of other tasks at the owner’s request.  Sounds like a dandy job to moi.

 

I had always intended to ‘write a business plan’ as a resolution but I was originally going to do it for my dream business, an alternative art gallery coupled with kitschy cafe, that realistically was never going to happen because a) I’ll never have that kind of money and b) beatnik art-loving wannabes annoy me.  But with a business I could really sink my canine teeth into the resolution that I might do someday became DO IT NOW DO IT NOW DO IT NOOOOOOOOW.

 

First we had to choose a name which quickly became a ridiculous farce because while pet-sitting is still relatively unknown in Australia it is big business in the states and every name your brain may spew forth is already taken (including such classics as Mary Pawpins, The Paw Seasons and Nanny McFur).  We’re working with a couple of different names but, for the time being, they must remain under wraps because there may be thieves amongst you.

 

Then we had to suss out the competition, looking at local newspaper ads and countless websites to find out who else runs a pet-sitting service—where they are, what they offer and at what cost— to assess the feasibility of starting our own.  As there doesn’t appear to be one in our local area this venture was looking more attractive by the minute.

 

After downloading a template business plan from www.business.gov.au I got started on our own.  Essentially I love filling out questionnaires which made the first part of this easy but tackling the tougher questions gave us plenty to think about.  Thankfully, as this is more a hobby business with few overheads we can afford to go running out into the market somewhat blindly without much to lose.

 

In terms of our marketing, two fortuitous things have happened.  Firstly a friend was looking for a design project to give her work experience students and asked if she could use our business, meaning we could potentially end up with some cheap ideas.  Secondly my next assignment for the writing course I study involved putting together a marketing plan and making a flyer for a business of our choice.  Keeping in mind that I am in NO WAY a designer, I’ve worked up a basic layout I’m relatively happy with that we can use to brief in a proper designer, maybe saving ourselves a dime or two.

 

Then, with more good fortune, I spotted a seek ad on my Internet travels looking for licensees for a pet-sitting franchise.  They were going to be conducting a seminar on ‘owning a pet-sitting business’ in a couple of day’s time in a suburb right near ours!  And so, we went along last night to see if this was a more feasible way of getting into the industry.

 

Now it’s simply a matter of taking it slow as we don’t want to get too invested until I hear back from the job I applied for.  However I’ve got some dog walking training this evening and then I’ll be hitting the books, learning about pet care and researching different animal breeds in preparation for when we can “unleash” our marketing efforts.

 

So kids, if you’re looking for a pet-sitter WHO YOU GUNNA CALL?

 

Week 44. Resolution 44. See MONSTER TRUCKS. November 10, 2010

I once read a quote about monster trucks that made me think, ‘YEAH! I can totally relate to that.’  But over the years as the quote rattled around in my brain it became so weathered that the finer points, such as the correct wording or the person responsible, were lost.  I think it was along the lines of, “Watching monster trucks is cathartic, in the same way as playing drums or hitting a punching bag”.  As I’m neither a boxer nor a drummer I can’t imagine why this appealed to me but I guess the idea of venting anger through destruction, without causing physical harm  is one that many AngryYoungThings™ can relate to.

The idea of seeing an over the top, big dumb American sport built on testosterone and greasy food took root so firmly in my mind that ‘See Monster Trucks’ was in fact the first resolution on my list, subsequently leading to the creation of a little blog called ‘Resolution Baby’.  For the last 43 weeks I’ve been stalking http://www.monstertrucksaustralia.com.au/ waiting for my chance to finally catch a rally.

Then, on the eve of Saturday the 6th of November, my wait was finally over as I excitedly bundled friends into my car and drove us to Archerfield Speedway to have our ears, eyes and minds assaulted by the biggest, brashest, loudest event in town, the Monster Trucks World Finals III (because two world finals just aren’t enough!)

As we arrived in the vicinity I wound up the windows and locked all the doors because this was bogan territory after all, but it turns out there was not a mullet nor a Southern Cross tattoo in sight.  The alcohol free venue must have kept them locked firmly in their trailers.  Or it could have been the $90 ticket price for grand stand seating but the $50 “pull up a piece of grass” seating was more than fine.

As we arrived, skydivers drifted from the heavens and dirt bikes scooted around the stadium while magic hour beautified the surrounding landscape.  The air crackled with excitement as the announcer introduced the 12 monster trucks and goaded the children into screaming along.  With trucks themed after Batman, Scooby Doo and Taz, driven by drivers as young as 15, it became clear why it was an alcohol-free family affair.

After standing for both the American and Australian anthems the action got underway with the racing portion of the evening as trucks were pitted against each other to circle the track, (which included driving over a couple of banks of cars) as fast as possible.  Visually, this wasn’t terribly exciting and the rules were unclear but it had the crowd baying for destruction, while children covered their ears to drown out the noise.

Next a bunch of hoony cars did burn-outs, enveloping the track in dust before the jet-fuelled Scooby Bus took to the track trailing fire in its wake and enveloping the track in smoke.  Me wants fire-breathing Scooby Bus.  Meanwhile the kids in the audience played with $10 lightsabers showing that nerd toys rule even in the land of the hoons.

A crane on one side of the track pulled a car into the air while on the other side two monster trucks were chained on opposite ends of a car ready to tear it to shreds.  The announcer ramped up anticipation with a countdown but when nothing happened this became the first of many failed countdowns of the night.  Eventually the trucks got it together and yanked the car in two before the crane dropped the other car from the air to explode on the track.  Well kinda.  It sorta dinted a little.

In what should have been an indicator of the quality of the event, they next unleashed AFL anti-hero, Brendan Fevola from the Brisbane Lions, onto the track waving from the back of a ute to equal cheers and jibes.  The crane then dropped a second car onto the first car (it missed) before sending the Scooby Bus back out onto the track to set something on fire.  We couldn’t really see it as there was a mound of dirt and bus in the way but according to this website, ‘Transzilla the fire breathing dinosaur’ was supposed to make an appearance and this may have been it.  I was beginning to feel as if I were in a Simpsons episode.

As the lights dimmed, the track was overtaken by a half-assed, green laser light show before $100,000 worth of fireworks erupted into the sky.  It’d been a while since I’ve watched a fireworks display and the excitement never fades.

This lead onto the freestyle section of the night where the monster trucks were given 90 seconds to pull off as many jumps and tricks as possible over a bus, dirt piles and a boat manned with authentic fisherman mannequin.  By now the crowd was eager for the world first attempt of a double back flip which could surely be only moments away.

The first truck, Raptor’s Rampage took a jump over the first embankment and then … stopped.  He scored a massive three points before being towed off the track.  Next up was Batman who managed a few big jumps before landing on the boat and getting firmly wedged atop it.  They must have played the Batman theme about 50 times as we waited for the track team to extricate it from its nautical death.  In a ditch effort to win back the crowd another car was dropped from the crane but our interest in this party trick had waned.

Scooby Doo got some impressive air before shutting down mid burn-out which was enough to cause the crowd to begin trickling out while the rest of us were subjected to the Scooby theme a good 30 times while he, too, was towed from the track.  And so continued the run of unprecedented bad luck as truck after truck failed dismally.  Only one truck managed to finish the 90 seconds intact while the pile of broken dreams grew larger at trackside.  Freakshow, who was to attempt the double back flip, managed half a flip before landing on its roof were it stayed firmly stuck.

Thankfully, there was redemption when big gun and consistent winner, Avenger, tore up the course and managed to come away victorious.  The driver, Jim Koehler, ran around the track excitedly, making up for the lack of enthusiasm in the crowd who were now leaving in droves.  As we bustled towards the exit they started bringing caravans out onto the track but with few trucks left drivable and the announcer’s accompanying comment of, “it’s a bit too late for that” it was clear that the show was over.

Even though it was a night full of disappointment we certainly felt fulfilled and I can confirm that it is an excellent way to forget your troubles, for a time.  Although from the amount of negative comments about the event on the Extreme Monster Truck Facebook page, including from the organisers themselves, it seems we didn’t get the best of the best.

However we did finally see a bogan as we were driving out—a woman climbed into the boot of her car, struggling to close it until one of her kids got out and shut it for her.  Classy.

 

A couple of photos courtesy of David Nobby Holmyard.

‘YEAH!
 

Week 43. Resolution 43. Make something with felt. November 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 7:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Last week I stumbled upon a business idea that would be perfect for my family and began to fancy myself as an odd jobs lady—working part-time in a bookstore, running an Etsy shop, doing some freelance editing and spending a few hours a day on the family business.  Naturally the next day I received a phone call offering me a job interview for a full-time position I applied for six weeks ago.  This is just how my life works.

Case in point:  This very morning I woke up and thought to myself ‘Hayley, you really need to cut down on chocolate.  You eat too much.  It’s made your edges all squishy.’ Two hours later my mum received a letter in the mail saying she’d won a 10kg block of Cadbury chocolate.

Look, I’m not complaining (even though I am) I just wish I could make one decision without life going ‘HAHA, WRONG!’ and doing a merry dance atop the grave of my ruined ideas.

Now, you may have noticed that I mentioned running an Etsy shop and those of you who’ve been paying attention will be thinking ‘Whoah Nelly.  An Etsy shop?  That’s a bit ambitious for someone who’s entirely shite at making pretty things with your hands’ and you’d be spot on, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I’ve discovered a craft for non-crafties and it involves the versatile fabric, FELT.

I’ve always felt fondly about felt which may have stemmed from hours of youthful abandon spent playing with Fuzzy Felt.  Last year I began to amass a collection of felt badges from Etsy with grand dreams of fostering a reputation as ‘that girl who wears felt badges’ before I ran out of money.  It simply never occurred to me that I could just as easily make my own.

Thankfully my sluggish brain eventually put the pieces together as it dawned on me that all it takes to assemble a felt masterpiece is a needle and thread and a tube of glue.  These are tools I can work with!  My excitement at this prospect took on grandiose Etsy-store sized proportions and I began to envision my future riches via the empire that felt built.

As always, my perfectionism / OCD made choosing my felt project a difficult and lengthy process.  Despite months of bookmarking dozens of websites and poring over every felt related book in my library and bookshop, it wasn’t until I’d perused all 3200 felt projects on my new favourite website in the whole-wide-interworld, ‘Cut Out + Keep‘ (a website filled to its virtual brim with free craft projects), that I finally decided on the following projects.

 

1.      I love fawns.  I LOVE ‘EM.  And I thought this little badge was utterly delightful.

2.      As a fan of director Hayao Miyazaki, there was no way I could deny bringing a miniature Totoro into the world.

3.      Domo, the charming Japanese mascot, always bound to bring a smile to yer dial.

 

I then hit up every craft shop in the local vicinity (why is brown felt so difficult to find!) before returning home with a well-spent $10 worth of supplies.

Firstly I printed out photos of the three projects, scaled to my desired size, and used these as patterns by pinning them onto the felt and cutting out the separate pieces.

My dear deer was easy to make, even though I did spend a good hour cutting out enough misshapen tiny five-pointed stars to fill a lopsided galaxy.  I simply cut out the two main pieces plus the nose and the stars and hand-stitched / glued the pieces together, sewed in the eye and attached a badge back on the reverse.  Sadly I think my colour choices make it difficult to tell what it is (Dad had ten guesses before I gave in and told him) but at least it resembles SOMETHING.

Totoro was also a simple affair of stitching the pieces together and stuffing his insides.  Next time I’ll look at a proper picture of the character before I start because I’m not entirely happy with this representation and I think the last minute edition of whiskers ruined him, but lessons learned will ensure I won’t make the same mistakes again.

And now to my Pièce de résistance – Domo Kun.  Using three pieces of brown felt, I first cut out most of the pieces and glued his mouth on from the inside.  Next I stitched on the eye buttons, and sewed up the arms, adding wire and stuffing so they wouldn’t sag.   I then sewed all the pieces together, stitching from the inside, and left a hole at the bottom for stuffing.  I finished by turning it the right way out, adding the stuffing and sewing up the feet.  This took a couple of days of work and of the few difficulties I had, Go-Go-Gadget Mum was on hand to assist.  He’s certainly not perfect but I like him.  He’s cuddly and cool and will look swell on my mantle.


New Project

 

This is one of the few resolutions I’ve enjoyed enough to turn into a hobby and so perhaps my Etsy shop dreams aren’t that outlandish afterall.  I already have my next project in mind and with all the fantastic discoveries on offer from Cut Out and Keep and the Felties book I’ve had the library order in, it’s looking like this talentless lass may have found her niche.  And felt, unlike life, will never laugh in my face.

 

  • In my travels I also discovered Macula, a WONDERFUL site full of free papercraft patterns.

·

If you guys know of any other great, free craft sites please let me know!

 


If you guys know of any other great, free craft sites please let me know!

 

Week 42. Resolution 42. Zombie walk! October 25, 2010

Why are vampires always stronger than werewolves in the paranormal romance novels that clutter the minds of our women folk? Let’s look at the facts. A vampire, even with super fast agility and strength, is still only made of human flesh. Dogs can already kill us with their crushing jaws and powerful physiques so if you add super fast agility and strength, the smarts of a human and the ferocious desire to kill everything in its path, it stands to reason that werewolves > vampires.

Yet it’s the ZOMBIES, probably the least likely to survive a vampire / werewolf barfight, that are still the most badass and terrifying of all paranormal killing machines. Perhaps because they’re completely incapable of falling in love with whiney, awkward teenagers which is AS IT SHOULD BE.

Since zombies have thus far managed to escape the wrath of Stephenie Meyer they are highly celebrated the world over with annual zombie walks involving thousands of gore and blood covered folk terrorising the unsuspecting while ambling through the city streets feeding on camera wielding Asian tourists.

For years my friend has hounded me to zombie up for this event but my reserved nature, born out of the shame of practically failing acting at high school, always sounds the alarm at the thought of being publicly on display and so I’ve never succumbed to the call of the zombie (which sounds a lot like BRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS). The only way to solve this problem was by slotting it into the resolution list and with no further option to object, my terror turned to joy at the prospect of playing dress ups.

My first step in ‘transformation zombie’ was to head to the website of the local organisers http://www.brisbanezombiewalk.com/ to register. As you can imagine, there is much complaint by people commonly known as ‘killjoys’ about such an event, so registering on the website allows the organisers to provide numbers to the authorities. There is also the option to give a cash contribution to cover the event costs with any excess being donated to the Brain Foundation of Australia. Depending on how much you contribute this entitles you to a wrist band, after party entry or a T-shirt. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t contribute you don’t deserve to join the zombie legions.

I then began to assemble an outfit before receiving the heartbreaking email that my zombie lovin’ friend would be out of town come the big event. My balloon of big ideas rapidly deflated as I realised there was only one thing worse than making a spectacle of oneself, and that is of doing it alone, much like tripping in front of a group of school kids.

The only way to remedy this horrific situation was to attend in the guise of a photographer, although the thought of being the non fancy dressed odd-one-out around thousands of brain-sucking undead filled me with such dread that I had zombie nightmares all week leading up to the event. But on arrival in Wickham Park where the shenanigans were to begin I realised there were plenty of other blood-free camera-equipped people with the same idea as me.

At 3PM on Sunday the 24th of October, the city of Brisbane was overrun with zombies.

While many simply wore regular clothes spattered with blood, the majority dressed in zombified themed costume from geriatrics and brides, to Smurfs, Native American Indians, Na’vis from Avatar and SANTA. Naturally swarms of zombies also attract gun-toting zombie fighters who lined the hill out front of the initial assembly point at Albert Street Uniting Church, much to the horror of the minister who was trying to conduct a wedding. At one point I saw her filling buckets of water to throw at the crowd. She was obviously confusing zombies with the Wicked Witch of the West.

For the next couple of hours I was all action, snapping away delightedly as the zombies hammed it up for the camera. Highlights included being hissed and screamed at by small children, almost being barrelled over by roller-skate-wearing Dead Meat and co from the Sun State Roller Girls derby team as they fake-stacked it on the sidewalk around me (brilliant!) and hearing zombie Neytiri from Avatar yelling ‘DON’T TOUCH ME’ at whoever wanted to pose in a photo with her. It was exciting and thrilling and barrels of fun.

Before long the crowd spread out and sped up, most likely picturing the beer at the end of the long, hot walk. Even though I was running to try and reach the front of the horde I kept finding I was still stuck with the same group of people, sort of like that scene from ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ where the same bicycle keeps riding past. The large police presence kept the cars at bay for the entirety of the walk and I couldn’t tell whether their chorus of honking horns was to show support or frustration.

The walk ended in Centenary Place Park where I lurked for awhile before heading to the train station while many others set off to whet their zombie whistle. On the way I spotted The Joker standing precariously atop a van featuring the sign ‘Welcome Zombies’ who was all too happy to pose for snaps. (Mine sucked but you can find some GREAT photos of him HERE.)

While waiting for the train I was bemused by the 40-something woman who admitted her terror at being surrounded by the hordes of blood soaked people and I it made me realise that there probably is nothing scarier than gangs of youths covered in blood. Except maybe tripping in front of them. I will probably never forget the look of horror on her face when I left her alone to walk further down the platform to meet someone.

Tragically, my pain-in-the-arse camera was a real let down, although special mention goes to one of the other photographers for taking a look at it for me. My second (and better) lens refused to work and the majority of my shots are blurry. I’m now questioning whether I should ever pick up a camera again.

Either way, I won’t need my camera next year because nothing will stop me from being one of those looking to snack on your brains. Watch your back.

 

Week 41. Resolution 41. Try Cake Decorating. October 18, 2010

When Mum was my age she was no stranger to the alchemy of turning an ordinary cake mixture into a magnificent, edible character for my birthday parties.  But as my biological clock is permanently set to snooze, the unexpected side effect of my dormant maternal instinct is that I’ve never tried my hand at cake decorating.  However with my bestie’s birthday coming up it seemed a fine time to show the cakery goddesses what they’ve been missing.

I thought that choosing a design would be as simple as thumbing through Mum’s old cake books—books as familiar to me as my favourite childhood picture books.  But as I’m the kind of person who always has to give the perfect gift, and failing finding such a gift am more likely to give you nothing at all than something mediocre, I was unsurprised to find this attitude extended to cake.  It took a day of searching cake websites, looking at everything from Toy Story and Nightmare Before Christmas cakes to those shaped like roller skates or record players before I stumbled upon this Scott Pilgrim-themed six-storey rainbow cake monstrosity which was THE ONE.  It was also at this point that mysterious coins seemed to fall from the ceiling (Scott Pilgrim reference for the uninitiated).

The cake elite do not freely give away their secrets and so the hunt for a rainbow cake recipe began.  Although I could have saved myself some time and effort had I known that such a search should always begin and end with the Oprah of the craft world, Martha Stewart.  And so I decided to use this recipe … which is based on a recipe discovered here.

After reading the comments I began to have reservations about how disgustingly sweet a six-layered cake lathered with icing was likely to be and so my search turned to finding a low sugar, low butter alternative to buttercream.  Fortunately I remembered that one of my favourite bloggers, Rachael Kendrick, had discovered just such a thing in one of her recent posts.  Naturally this is derived from a recipe found on Martha Stewart’s site.

With the recipe locked in, Day 2 was about acquiring ingredients while Day 3 was devoted to getting that cake a-bakin’, but my attempts were riddled with frustrations as I seemed to lack the mindset required.  First, I absent-mindedly added the baking powder to the sugar instead of the flour (tip: do not place similar looking bowls next to each other) which, in hindsight, was not such a drama since it all ends up in the same place anyway.   But failing to recognise this fact had me manically trying to remove every trace of baking powder from the sugar which potentially threw my ingredients out of whack.

To divide the batter evenly into six bowls, Martha suggests you weigh the mixture and then divide the weight by six to ensure each amount is exact.  For some reason that only my deluded thought process understands, I decided it would be okay to include the weight of the bowl into this equation.  Have I ever mentioned that math is not my strong point?  So, while colouring the third layer, with two layers already baked, I realised I was quickly running out of mixture.  This, added to the stress of my purple and blue layers coming out brown and splotchy, caused angry wisps of steam to escape my ears.  That is, until the fridge light of my mind switched on to show me the solution.

I had already foreseen a number of potential problems with this cake:

  1. I was worried about the size of a six-layered cake. I knew I wouldn’t have it ready in time for her birthday dinner and that’s a lotta cake for one person.
  2. I had two layers that were fat, discoloured and appeared to be undercooked, despite having thrown them back into the oven for a further 20 minutes.  How a cake can be both crumbly and sticky is beyond me.
  3. I was short on batter for the remaining layers.
  4. I was concerned there wouldn’t be enough icing.

Thankfully my mathematical stuff-up offered a feasible solution to all of these problems.  I decided that instead of using an 8-inch wide cake tin, I would reduce the size to 6 inches and instead cook in a soufflé bowl so the remaining batter would still make sizeable layers.  It also meant I could cut off the brown edges of the layers I’d already cooked, revealing their brightly coloured insides.  Genius.

These smaller cakes cooked perfectly, and having to cut the edges off the pre-cooked layers meant I got to keep the yummy crunchy bits for myself.  Sadly, my dreams of an authentic rainbow cake were gone as I’d had to forgo the orange layer and the purple and blue layers were far too crumbly to use as a base.

As I had to work that night I saved the icing for the final day.  Rachael’s version of the buttercream recipe has less ingredients and a slightly adapted method of preparation than Martha’s but was a dream to make and turned out perfectly thick and fluffy.  I chose to leave out the nutmeg and cinnamon and was disappointed that the icing was still sugary and buttery enough to burn the back of your throat, although this may have had something to do with the normal butter in Rachael’s recipe as opposed to Martha’s unsalted butter.  Still, I could not.stop.eating.it.

It is imperative to ice between each layer to ensure they stick together and there was ample icing for this purpose with plenty left over to cover the cake (and stuff in my mouth).

For the outside I used packet fondant icing which I was already terrified of thanks to Mum’s cautions regarding its wily nature. First I kneaded the colour in and then rolled the icing flat with a rolling pin on an icing sugar coated mat to stop it from sticking.  It stuck anyway and as someone with little patience for finicky tasks the sides ended up going on riddled with holes that I had to patch up with excess icing.  This looked terrible so I placed a second layer over the problem area and rubbed some water over the edges to disguise them a little.  I then popped the round top on and made the wonky pink ribbon edges.  Sadly the cake was lopsided and had inappropriate bulges and the icing didn’t have the clean, straight lines of the original picture.  But hey, I’m no expert.  Next I added the Converse-like stitching and stars, although I didn’t have a rounded 5-pronged star cookie cutter to be brand authentic.  I also stuck a few stars around the sides to cover the problem areas.

After realising I’d stupidly forgotten to get a candle and rifled through Mum’s Tupperware cupboards to find a container to fit the awkwardly sized cake, I was ready for cake delivery to the birthday girl.

As my cake was such an abomination to the original design I didn’t mention the Scott Pilgrim connection, so I imagine the brightly coloured icing was a touch off-putting.  Michelle didn’t want to cut it before dinner and so I had to reveal the cake’s rainbow surprise in fear of never witnessing the finished product.  Instead we ate some for breakfast (at a time which was more suitable for afternoon tea) and it was not quite the terrible disaster I’d envisioned, although were I to make it again I would use a better cake recipe and perhaps give a different subtle flavour to each individual layer.

However, I’m certainly in no hurry to rush back to cake decorating and I imagine the goddess of cakery, who it turns out is Martha Stewart, is currently weeping in therapy for my sins against baked goods.  Still, the point of cake is celebration, and what better occasion to celebrate than my special friend Michelle’s 30th birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVELY LADY!

 

Week 40. Resolution 40. See the Tim Burton exhibition. October 11, 2010

To you Tim Burton may be that creepy wild-haired director who sodomises your favourite classic film by packing it full of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and the sense that there’s something dreadful lurking around every corner.  I have a friend who recently admitted she runs a mile from any project emblazoned with Burton’s name (an admission I find inconceivable because regardless of your feelings about Burton, surely the promise of spending two hours with Johnny Depp is enough?) so I’m well aware that Burton’s work is not for everyone and even I, committed fan, agree he has made some poor choices and had some poor choices thrust upon him.

 

But it is not Tim Burton’s directorial choices that fill my heart with boundless joy. It is the world of darkness that resides in his head, so evocative that it manifests in his films as moody set pieces, tormented creatures and shadowy landscapes.  Although I’m intensely fearful of horror films Tim Burton has a gift of making horror comforting, almost cartoonish, giving the sense that while you may find something terrifying beyond your wildest fears when you turn that corner, you may also find something equally sweet and simply misunderstood.  Only Tim Burton can make me recapture that feeling I had as a child when I still solemnly believed fairies and witches were real and if there were some way to step out of this world and into his, I WOULD DO IT, without second thought, without looking back (and regardless of whether Johnny Depp lived there or not).

 

Naturally, on hearing Tim Burton: The Exhibition was moving into Melbourne’s ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) I was ready to sacrifice my favourite childhood toy if I thought it would help me get me there.  But lack of money being a source of unremitting frustration this year meant that I was going to have to stay home and live vicariously through the tweets of those who could go.  The exhibition was launched in Melbourne by Tim Burton himself, complete with red carpet arrival and the apparition of a headless horseman and carriage rolling around Melbourne streets.  To accompany the three-and-a-half month exhibition ACMI ran a Tim Burton Masterclass which was beamed to the watching public in Federation Square, the Burton Club—a nightclub featuring cabaret acts, workshops in subjects such as make up, animation and soundtrack, talks exploring his works, a film retrospective, a competition to find the horseman’s head and an online gallery to which artists could submit their Burton inspired works.  It’s enough to make your head spin (if you have one).

As any ardent fan knows having to live with the guilt of never making it to the exhibition would have been much, MUCH harder than whatever sacrifices it would take to get there and so I always knew I would get to Melbourne somehow.  Initially I suggested to ACMI that they should run a competition to fly Burton’s biggest fan to the exhibition and save on advertising costs by giving the prize to me.  (To which they replied ‘nice try’.)  But thanks to the note on my desktop with the exhibition’s closing date serving as a daily reminder and much scrimping (whatever that is) and saving I eventually booked my flight to Melbourne to attend the exhibition in its final week.

 

It was a perfectly overcast Tuesday morning when I made my way to Federation Square and after paying the $19 admission fee and passing by the Batmobile and inflatable Balloon Boy I reverently entered the exhibition while my insides did star jumps.  Descending the escalator into darkness I was first greeted by a topiary deer and Edward’s scissor hand, although having to view this from four people deep initially made me feel like going all scissorhands on their hair, but thankfully the crowds thinned eventually.  The first area addressed Burton’s youth, featuring childhood sketches, student films and school assignments, giving an excellent opportunity early on in which to relate personally to him.

 

The next room featured a dizzying display of drawings from his days studying at CalArts and working for Disney, covering a range of styles and techniques that alone would have constituted a fantastical art exhibition, clearly highlighting when his vision began to adopt its own style.  I was quite surprised as I hadn’t realised he was such a talented, diverse and prolific artist.  There were also large sculptures and a showing of Burton’s twisted Japanese short film adaptation of Hansel and Gretel.

 

I then entered the ‘Burtonarium’, a black-lit hallway surrounded by neon monsters ending in a carnival tent that contained a glowing carousel atop a plasma lamp.  The next few rooms extensively covered Burton’s film career with art, costumes, film snippets, sculptures, hand-written notes, storyboards, models and set pieces from all of Burton’s films—Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, The Adventures of Stain Boy, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, the upcoming feature Frankenweenie and all the pieces in between. *deep breath*

To explain any of the pieces to you would be an injustice to those I didn’t (the severed heads from Mars Attacks! were particularly cool even though I was unnerved about having to share my view of them with a little girl whose fascination bordered on disturbing) but the exhibition was so vast and wonderfully atmospheric that were I still living in Melbourne I would have bought a season pass and been there every day.  There were countless exhibits I wanted to rip off the wall and run away with, or even seek out someone I could ask about buying certain pieces, but I decided I’d have to settle with whatever the gift shop had to offer.

 

It was only later that I discovered the exhibition was curated by my new heroes Ron Magliozzi and Jenny He, curators of my second favourite exhibition ever ‘Pixar: 20 years of Animation’ (Tim Burton is now the first).  In an interview with them I read that the exhibition was so comprehensive in part due to Burton’s diligence in archiving his own career which, for some reason, makes me love him more.

 


Evil citizen

With some time to spare I began to wander back through the exhibition again and take an odd sneakyphoto on my iPhone until random cranky woman told me off for it.  I cannot stand when normal citizens take it upon themselves to uphold the photo law and was so put out that I left.  I most likely deserved it but that didn’t make me feel any less dejected.

 

I was all prepared to throw money I don’t have at everything in the gift shop until I read in the exhibition pamphlet, with great excitement, that I could buy a copy of ‘The Art of Tim Burton’ for $89.95.  You can imagine then how gutted I was to discover it had sold out, so I bought a copy of the exhibition book instead (why do these books never sufficiently capture the exhibition for people who want to relive their experience?) and dragged myself away.

 

Unfortunately most of the extra-curricular activities surrounding the exhibition occurred in the early days or on weekends and so I wasn’t able to partake in any of these fantastic events, although having already seen Burton speak in London I was not too fussed.  In fact, I was just so thrilled to have made it to the exhibition at all.

 

Ever since, I’ve been on a fanatical mission to acquire ‘The Art of Tim Burton’ having spent hours scouring the Internet for a copy, although as it turns out, you can only buy them online from the publisher for $69.95 US (if you’re prepared to fork out $130 for postage).  While I’m fighting this for now, I’ll no doubt give in eventually.

 

Cue Vincent Price voiceover.  Fade to black.

 

ACMI

Photos courtesy of ACMI, my SLR and sneaky iPhone, Sea of Ghosts and err, some other places on the web.