Painting myself a lovely world (with a Dottieshop Watercolour Kit)

Although I am fairly handy at crafty things, I don’t actually have much skill in drawing and painting. Especially painting with watercolours. My own experience of watercolour painting as a child has been less than stellar. I always associated it with muddy faint colours and stiff bristled brushes that splayed out into stars. In short, I’m not very good at it and I’ve always felt that it’s a messy activity.

That is, until I started university and came across this daytime television programme called ‘Watercolour Challenge‘.

In ‘Watercolour Challenge‘, three amateur painters were given four hours to render a particular landscape in watercolours. I was always amazed at how neat and tidy the painters looked during the whole affair. None of them wore smocks to protect their clothes or required sheets of newspaper to catch stray drips. At the end, they rendered vividly coloured paintings, some in very intricate detail.

A few years ago, I tried learning watercolours on my own, with very little success. I simply did not have any clue what tools or paints I needed, nor how to go about applying brush to paper.

This is why I count myself very lucky to be one of the testers of the ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit from Dottieshop! Thanks so much for letting me try out the kit, Dot!

The ‘Hello Spring’ watercolour kit comes with instructions for painting some gorgeous spring flowers (cherry blossoms, roses and anemones), a set of good quality watercolour paints prepared in a palette, special watercolour paper and a water brush. This all fits into a neat little pink folder, which makes the whole set very portable!

What I particularly liked about the kit were the precise and clear instructions on how to use the brush and the watercolours, as well as the step-by-step guides on painting different flower blossoms. I found the thoughtfully written painting guides especially helpful, and within my first attempt I was able to produce a rather decent looking cherry blossom!

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My first attempt at watercolours using the ‘Hello Spring’ kit

I was very pleased with how the flowers turned out, after following the Dottieshop instructions! The Barn Owl was pretty impressed too, and that means a lot coming from him – he took Art as an ‘A’ level subject.

Best of all, there was hardly any clean up or mess involved. In fact, I have since realised that the kit is so complete that I don’t need to use anything else other than a clean, dry rag for wiping off my paint brush in between changing colours.

I do have to be rather careful in keeping and transporting the paint palette, however, as the watercolour paints grow brittle as they dry and sometimes little flakes may chip off if the palette gets jostled about, so I try to keep the paint set lying flat when it is not in use.

It wasn’t too difficult to use the brush techniques from the Dottieshop kit and extend that to paint other types of flowers and foliage.

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My watercolour studies of flowers and leaves

Since trying out the kit, I have found myself stealing a few minutes here and there during the day to do a little watercolour sketch. It really does refresh a tired mind!

Apart from the Hello Spring Watercolour Kit (which I think is a true bargain at SGD46), Dottieshop also has a Floral Illustration Kit (SGD36) as well as a Brush Calligraphy Beginners Kit (SGD33). These are great starter kits for beginners and would also make lovely gifts! Dot also runs workshops at Artify Studio – which I really hope to be able to attend some day.

P.S. To order one of the Dottieshop kits, just email dottieshop@gmail.com or leave her a message on Facebook or Instagram

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The Queen of Konmari: 5 Tips to Getting Started

Okay, I’ve been starting to tidy up and organise the house according to the Konmari method for a few weeks now, and I am happy to report that things are progressing.

It is not easy, but I am sticking to it.  I think the reason that I am sticking to it is because I managed to figure out a way to do it without getting too overwhelmed. Additionally, I found that there was a great deal of inertia when it came to actually getting started to Konmari and I needed some help with that.

So here’s what I did after I finished reading the books:

Five Tips to Getting Started with the Konmari Method

  1. Get moral support: Konmari’s books were initially written to get her potential clients inspired and start tidying before she can actually fit in a personal appointment with them. I think it helps to have somebody going alongside you, cheering you on (especially if you, like myself, are not naturally a tidy person). I formed a small Facebook group with a few of my friends who were planning to start or who were unsuccessfully trying to Konmari on their own. Being a part of this group is really helping me because we celebrate our small successes together and encourage each other if things appear to be insurmountable.
  2. Set aside a time where you have the most energy and can work undisturbed: Whilst reading the the books, I noticed that Konmari’s clients would put aside 5 hours for every session with her – sending the rest of the family out of the house. I don’t have a whole 5 hour block in a day to devote to tidying, so I took a leaf from my Happy Family Plan and set aside one hour in the morning during weekdays when Thumper is sleeping and the older two kids are in school.
  3. Keep to your schedule: It’s tempting to want to skip around Konmari’s method and try to do a little bit here and there whenever you have snatches of time. However, my friends who did that ended up feeling like they were spending every waking moment tidying and decluttering with no end in sight, and they burn out. I think the tortoise approach, where you just plug steadily away through the various stages of decluttering, works best for Konmari. I set aside time for myself to declutter each day and I would stop after that time had passed (even if I wasn’t finished) or after my task of that day is accomplished, whichever came first.  Then, I would reward myself with a break with a good book.
  4. red-dwarf-lister-arthur-dent-hitchhiker

    Lister vs Dent (okay, they are both kinda sloppy looking.)

    Dress nicely: Okay, this is one taken straight out of the book, and when I first read it, I thought it was utter rubbish too, but there’s a reason behind this.
    At some point in your tidying, your house is going to look real messy and you may start to question your life choices…then you take a glimpse of yourself in the mirror…and if you are still in your unwashed pyjamas, you are going to feel like a total slob. And not in a cool ironic way, like Arthur Dent saving the earth in his bathrobe with his trusty towel by his side, but more like Dave Lister, slobbing his slobby way around the universe.

  5. Designate a Konmari corner that will remain undisturbed during the rest of the day: This is key, especially if you have kids around because you don’t want them coming in and picking through the mounds of stuff or moving anything around that you haven’t finished sorting through. Pick an area of the house that gets low traffic or can be shut off from the house. I am fortunate to have a spare room in my house, so I did all of my sorting and reorganising in that room, so that at the end of the hour, I could shut the door on all of it and not have to see it until the next day.

P.S. If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

The Good Life: Conversations about Carrots

So, I had my first carrot harvest at the New Castle, so obviously I had to share the joy!

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That carrot knows it’s got it

ABC:  Debs!  Check out my carrot harvest!

Debs G: It’s like looking at a runway.

ABC:  Is it because of the leggy purple carrot?

Debs G:  Yes, it is stealing the show.

Much later, I ate the leggy purple carrot in a stew.  It was terrible.

Oh well, them’s the breaks.

In Conversation With the Barn Owl: Spam Emails

Barn Owl: *checking his email* HAHAHAHA!

Debs G: What? What’s so funny?

Barn Owl: Look at this! Guess! Guess! Which email is the spam email?

spam-emails

One of these email is not like the others

Barn Owl: Oooh ooh I know I know! Is it the one from Question Questionmark? Is it? IS IT?No it can’t be! I know so many people called Question Questionmark, it’s not spam at all click me click me I’m super important!

Debs G: Wow. It’s like they are not even trying. I feel so insulted. At least put some effort into it. Offer some gold bullion or diamonds or tell me a tragic tale about your late father and your evil poisoning uncle.

Barn Owl: Maybe I will! Maybe I will click on this email! Maybe I will write back to Question Questionmark! He has many questions and needs my help!

Debs G: You are too late. James Veitch has already beat you to it.

Barn Owl: Well then, goodbye Question Questionmark!

deleted

Email = Very Spam

Science in the kitchen: Eggs and Vinegar

So, J asked if he could perform an experiment at home that he read about in one of his Horrible Science books. I had a look at it and realised that we had all the ingredients in our kitchen and nothing seemed explosive or particularly messy…so why not?

Warning: Science! Also puns. Lots of EGG-ceptional puns. You’re going to crack up. Seriously. Omelettin’ this happen, yo. 

J’s Question: What happens when you soak eggs in vinegar?

What we used to answer J’s Question:

  1. One hard boiled egg
  2. One raw egg
  3. Vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar, but white vinegar probably works best)
  4. Glass jars of roughly the same shape and size.

What we did to answer J’s Question:

1. Label the jars and place the respective eggs inside.

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2. Cover each egg with an equal amount of vinegar and watch the science happen.

  • J’s Observation #1: Bubbles appeared on the surface of the eggs
  • EGG-CITING SCIENCE! The acetic acid in the vinegar reacted with the calcium carbonate of the eggshell, releasing carbon dioxide gas as bubbles!

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3. Leave the eggs in the vinegar for three days. Check on the eggs and see if there is more science happening

  • J’s Observation #2:There is a yucky white scum floating on the surface of the vinegar
  • EGG-CELLENT SCIENCE! Calcium acetate is a the other byproduct of the chemical reaction between the vinegar and the eggshell, and is a white solid at room temperature.

4. Remove the eggs from the jars and rinse away the vinegar (and any residual eggshell) under running water. Remember to EGGS-ercise caution whilst doing this.egg-vinegar-experiment-science-membrane-diffusion

5. Place the eggs on a plate and allow them to dry. Compare the two eggs.

  • J’s Observation #3: Both eggs have a smooth and waxy surface. The raw egg is much bigger than the boiled egg (Debs G: It is EGG-ceptionally large) after it has been soaked in vinegar
  • EGG-STREME SCIENCE! The eggshell completely dissolved in the vinegar. Underneath the eggshell is the egg membrane. Some of the water from the vinegar has moved across the membranes to the inside of the raw egg, but the contents of the egg did not leak out. This is because the egg membrane is semi-permeable and allowed only certain sized molecules through. The egg membrane is stretchy, so the egg swelled as the water moved inside it. Water moved inside the egg because the contents of the egg contained less water than the vinegar outside the egg. The process where a solvent (such as water) moves from a lower concentration solution (such as vinegar) to a higher concentration solution (such as egg white) is called osmosis.

science-egg-vinegar-boiled-raw

 

6. Drop both eggs from increasing heights and see what happens.

  • J’s Observation #4: I can see the yolk wobbling about inside the raw egg but not in the boiled egg. When I dropped them, both eggs bounced but when I dropped them from very high up, the raw egg burst like a water balloon (Debs G: It was EGGsplosive). The raw egg is liquid, but the boiled egg is solid.
  • EGG-TRAORDINARY SCIENCE! Eggs are full of protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids. When the egg is boiled, the heat messes up the amino acid bonds that hold the proteins together and give them a particular shape and form. The egg protein changes in form and appearance, becoming hard and solid. When proteins change from their original form into a new form, this is called denaturation.

So, don’t be a chicken. Get cracking and hatch a plan to make Science happen in your own kitchen!

These are the yolks, kid. These are the yolks.

 

The Good Life: Mr B

So, for my first post in The Good Life series, I would like to talk about pollinators.

This is Mr B. Mr B is a stingless Solitary Carpenter Bee that lives in a hole in the wall next to our front door.

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As good a picture as I can get of Mr B.  He’s quite a shy fella and I don’t have a very good camera!

Mr B moved in the day after we took down the ornaments that were hanging on the outside wall and removed the nails. When Boobook went to fill in the holes in the wall, there was Mr B. Sitting there. We decided not to evict him because he is a Beneficial Insect.

Pollinators are essential for any garden. Without them, we can’t get any good fruit or veg, as nothing would sprout. Insects are, of course, by far the best pollinators in the business, so we’re not at all shy of having a few buzzing around our home. This is why, despite all the problems I’ve been having with Thrips lately (more on this later), I haven’t done any pesticide spraying at my home.

The boand I have been discussing the possibility of getting a bee hive for the garden sometime in the future, but in the meantime, we’re doing all we can to attract good pollinators. We’ve recently purchased a bird bath, which we’re planning to load with marbles and smooth river rocks so that both birds AND bees can take a drink in this hot Summer weather. Only the oldest bees are sent out of the hive to get pollen, so it’s important to give these little old ladies a rest!

Australia also has a number of interesting stingless native bees. We’ve had a few of the really tiny ones buzzing around our garden – they live in a small nest inside one of the gum trees. It’s really important that we don’t disturb the nest, which is REALLY TINY (smaller than the size of my palm even!). Native bees are quite rare and they don’t have stings.  They do not make a lot of honey, but their nests have quite a complicated spiral pattern that interlocks honey with larvae, so we risk killing the baby bees by harvesting the honey or even touching the nest!

I’ve saw a Blue Banded Bee in the flower patch the other day! They’re massive critters, golden and fuzzy, with a blue and white butt. They have a really loud buzz too, owing to the fact that they’re buzz pollinators – their method of gathering pollen is to flap at the flower really hard until the pollen flies out and sticks to them. Inefficient, yes, but it does a lot less damage to plants, so you end up with healthier, larger fruit.

EDIT: It has come to our attention that Mr B may well be a Mrs B, as she has recently been attracting suitors to the little hole she lives in. Also, an astute friend of mine pointed out that she’s not as golden in colour as a Mr B should be. Mea Culpa!

Queen of Clean Konmari Challenge: The Book Reviews

Okay, so following the success of the Happy Family Plan, one of my cousins bought me Konmari’s books, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising“and “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up“, as gifts for Christmas.

Now, I actually put these books on my Christmas wish list because I had come across Marie Kondo‘s home organisation technique whilst completing the Happy Family Plan. I mean, if you google ‘decluttering’ or ‘tidying’, you will eventually come across her books sooner or later.

My idea of tidying was to put all the mess out of sight as quickly as possible, which is only a short term measure of keeping things neat and organised.  Soon, the cupboards and drawers were beginning to spill over all over the house again. In fact, when I was completing my Happy Family Plan, I realised halfway through that I was becoming fatigued and overwhelmed. This was because I was trying to do everything all at once and it wasn’t working for me.

For example, I really wanted to reorganise my cupboards, so I started out reorganising the Craft Cupboard, and soon this expanded to ‘reorganisation of the Games Cupboard’ which led to the ‘reorganisation of the Mementos Cupboard and Household Tools Cupboard’.  I ended up with a bunch of half-organised, half-full cupboards, and a bunch of half-organised, overflowing cupboards. At one point, I found myself spending a whole hour just emptying and repacking the same things into different cupboards like a crazy person.

Eventually, I decided to call a stop to the reorganisation of the cupboards and just move on with the rest of the Happy Family Plan.

I wanted to read Marie Kondo’s books because she claims to have a ‘ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME’ plan. You complete her method ONCE AND FOR ALL TIME and never return to your previous state of disorganisation and mess. And because I am an inherently lazy person, I like the idea of doing things only once.

So, I have read both of her books, and I have come to the conclusion that:

  1. Yes, they are very useful because they set down a very clear and logical framework that you can follow.
  2. Yes, if you really want to follow her plan, buy both books.
  3. The Konmari method works especially well if you are the sort of person who tends to procrastinate, if you are constantly looking for good storage solutions and if you feel guilt about your messy house but you are not a tidy person by nature.

And now, my thoughts on each book:

Thoughts on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Okay, the biggest criticism that this book has is that it uses some flower child hippie descriptive language. I mean, there is literally a whole paragraph in the book dedicated to examining the inner feelings of socks and the horror and abuse that is balling your socks up in the drawer.

Well, the first thing to remember is that this book is written primarily for a Japanese audience, and that culturally, all objects in Japan are described as having a spiritual nature. So in order to reach the heart of her audience, Konmari very cleverly appeals to the Japanese innate appreciation of objects as well as for all things cute and cuddly, in order to achieve to change in psychological mindset.

If you strip away all of that, what you are left with is a very concise and logical method of managing the task of curating and organising personal possessions as well as household items. Marie Kondo explains the development process behind her method, and understanding the theory does help you focus on tackling the problem of household mess in a positive and manageable way. Additionally, I think that following her advice on how to store or display items (or fold clothes) will actually help you to prolong the lifespan of your treasured possessions. She also has some very useful advice on what to do with items that have outlived their usefulness, things that you are holding onto out of guilt or some other emotional reason, or that you are keeping in store for a rainy day.

Conclusion: This book is very useful if you do not like tidying, and you need some help getting started.

Thoughts on Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

I think that this book is only helpful if you have already started to tidy your house via the Konmari method, or if you have read the first book and you have more questions.

This book is written as a companion to the first one. It already assumes that you have read Marie Kondo’s book, and so it proceeds to explain everything in much more detail. It covers her entire method in a very thorough and detailed manner – with pictures, descriptions and very practical, helpful tips to help you along if you start feeling discouraged.

However, if you don’t understand the theory behind the Konmari method or if you have an obsessive personality, this book will hinder more than it helps as the amount of information it contains will be too overwhelming.

Conclusion: This book is immensely helpful as a quick reference guide for people who are already committed to the Konmari method.

So, Meimei, now I have completed reviewing the Konmari books as per the Queen of Clean challenge. Haha!