Friday, June 14, 2019

Year of Fear - May

monthly blog challenge

I've always wanted to do yoga. I have a back that feels way too delicate and my ultimate, long-term dream is for it to get stronger requiring some sort of intervention right now. Yoga seems like the obvious mobility/flexibility choose. I've been surrounded by people who advocate for the practice, and podcasts that do the same but the furthest I've plunged is watching youtube clips, mimicking the moves and then giving up a few weeks later.

Which brings us to the last week in May, when I was chatting with Ben's friend who suggested I should go to Bikram yoga (the hot one) with him. He has mentioned going before and every time my responses have been a mix of various reasons and excuses. This time he said “aren't you doing that year of fear thing?” and straight away I knew what May's activity was going to be. I got a mat from the op shop, I started googling strange things like, “what side of the yoga mat do you use” “how do you wear your hair?” and I got really really nervous/anxious.

When I got into my car and loaded the address into my GPS it said I would arrive right on 9am and the website said I needed to get there 10-15 minutes before to register. I almost didn't even go. But what I've learnt from this project is that any fear based activity needs to be done immediately. If I arrived and they turned me away at least I had tried.

I arrived and they didn't turn me away. I filled out the form and the lady asked if I had been before which lead to if I had done yoga before and her starring blankly at me, “you've never done yoga before?”. I was half expecting her to say that maybe I shouldn't start with their hottest class but she told me where to leave my bags and shoes and which way was the room. I had my mat and towel and water bottle in their own bag and she told me “all bags left at the front”. Okay, learning! I even got to explain my year of fear project and at the beginning of the class she put that into her opening lines, about letting go of any fears, judgement or exceptions of yoga (which I thought was lovely). The room was warm and smelt comforting with music playing and I tried earnestly to fit in by mimicking the other 6 bodies lying on their mats already.

yoga mat

A quarter of the way through my mat was squeaking a lot so I quickly flipped it to the other side which meant my feet and hands slipping in some of the moves. The teacher picked up on this and stopped the class to get me one of their mats. Super kind. The class was a lot harder then I was expecting, I really wanted to sit down for a moment and drink my water but that simple act seemed like it would disrupt the quiet space and flow of the room and after the squeaking and the slipping and the teacher getting the mat all I wanted to do was lay extra extra low.

I got to the end of the class and the teacher told everyone in the room it was my first go and she smiled at me. Nobody else turned to acknowledge me as I sat on my mat looking at them smiling with a smile that said “sorry for the squeaking”.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. My back definitely wasn't instantly better, perhaps even more sensitive after being pushed outside it's comfort zone but I can see how continued practice would let it travel down a much more expansive, flexible path. After the class, I woke up the following three mornings with no back pain (unheard of phenomenon!) which I credit 100% to the yoga. During the 90 minutes, I could do all the moves bar one (which the teacher modified for me). I also did one move in reverse and the teacher came over to correct and we had a laugh. Having the teacher demo (physically and verbally) in front, the mirrors to see what other people were doing helped make it fairly simple for a lady who still (shamefully!)gets their lefts and rights mixed up.

One of my fears was to stand out (which happened a little) but the other was to be in an environment and around people that I'm not matched with, which definitely happened. That fear of established snooty yoga people was real and yet it really wasn't that bad. I think the teacher being kind was a huge help but also just acknowledging to myself that I'm out of my comfort zone and keeping pride in my heart for taking that step was super helpful. Plus remembering, everyone is living their own narrative and not to let my perception of others (or perceived judgements) sabotage me in the future (not easy still!).

Overall a big success.

I also managed to find a really nice (non-squeaky) yoga mat on a kerb-side clean up hunt, a week later and I stumbled upon a yoga class in my own town that I need to investigate further on!

I know we are already half way through June and this post comes a little late. I've never experience my life so intensely full, filled to the brim with the complete spectrum of emotions. I'm trying to take photos along the way as simple validation for myself that I survive this period of my life and maybe I'll get the chance to do some catch up blogging on it as well. If I'm completely honest though I wouldn't of blogged this today if it wasn't for a toe injury that has left me with no other choice but be still at my desk for the day.

Probably the universe letting me know I need to take a breath. 

A big breath.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Year of Fear - April

header for blog series - year of fear

I have a bunch of ideas for my monthly fear challenges but they haven't been slotted into any particular month, just waiting for their place.  One idea was public speaking (I hate public speaking) and I had been talking to Ben about how on Earth I would make that happen - soap box in the middle of town?  When Dad died, it made sense this would be my April fear.  So many others fears this month that I hadn't even contemplated.  Having someone, who potentially loves you the most in the World, simply vanish hadn't crossed my radar and obviously, I'm glad it didn't, the impact in the moment and the aftermath was grand enough for my little heart.

After Dad's funeral on Tuesday, the director came over and told me that they film each ceremony and that my tribute was lovely and that I should watch it.  I've only watched a little, so hard to watch on a bunch of levels but I'm popping up the link and the access code for anyone else to watch and I'll post my actually words below as well.  I practiced with Ben the days before.  At first it was hard to read and then it was easy and at the funeral it was impossibly hard.  I know I did the best I could.  I left the funeral with a strange sense of happiness, knowing it was a great send off for Dad.  It wasn't sad seeing his body going into the ground, it's the space between his spirit and me that creates a lingering sadness, although I feel him close, I'd love him closer.  I'm moving forward with all the practical things that need to be done following a death, it keeps the heart from wallowing and grows the spirit, or at least that's what I'm hoping for.

(click on 'live stream' under 'service venue')
PIN:  7588


my face tells my chest
tells my heart that sadness
is coming and we hunker down
together as the wave of grief
moves through and vanishes and
comes back around again.

Dad's optimism travels through my soul, it tells me tomorrow is another day, another day to be generous and kind, strong, forgiving, courageous, to see the humour and use my Harding brain. I feel his warmth.

The clouds and the sky following dad's death were hauntingly beautiful, they changed colour and tempo and just when the sun has decided to stay, the rain fell heavily from the sky as a gesture to honour my inner dialogue. Angels in clouds and rainbows upon rainbows and a smoke detector going off in the middle of the night that we renamed the ghost alarm.

I sat on the patio that night, the night I found out dad had passed, it was so still and I searched for the stars. If I managed to not let my mind wander and just feel the moment, it was incredibly peaceful and the convos I had with Dad were reassuring and beautiful. He didn't want to leave, he reminds me to do my daily tasks, he's so happy about the house and he tells me I have spirits all around me. I always thought that would be incredibly scary but it isn't because I'm not actually 100% in the world myself. I'm trapped by choice, in a place that isn't the happiness of the past nor the future riddled with absence. I talk with Ben who lives in the future and he tells me he will keep offering me life lines and it's okay if I don't accept them. I finally agree to a bowl of icecream. I haven't been eating and I'm not even sure I like icecream but Ben has loaded it up with peanut butter and chocolate goo and I eat it and it makes me happy.

Things I know that are true.
Dad didn't want to leave
He left peacefully
His physical heart had reached the end
His spirituality gifted him protection
He was so happy, so happy.
He loved loved loved loved Andrew, Matty, Jake and myself
and he wasn't ready to leave us

Thank-you Dad for your kindness that wraps around me so tightly offering protection and guidance. Thank-you for reaching out your hand to me and taking me on an adventure that saw me seek a deeper kindness and a capability to tackle mountains that I wasn't sure my body was ready for. Thank-you for sharing my hobbies and geeking out with me and gifting me your time, your spirit, love and joy and knowledge.

Life's wheels didn't just fall off when you left, my whole universe vanished beneath me. Dad gave me so much in the physical world that it still remains with me and helps me get up on days I don't want to. I'm forever grateful to have been gifted such a wonderful dad who showed me the joy in the moment, right now.

You're lovely dad and I love you and I miss you.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Saying Goodbye to Dad

On Tuesday night my Dad passed peacefully in his sleep. The coroner explained it was a history of heart disease in his family. That his heart filled up with blood and he most likely slipped into a coma before passing away. When I saw his body lying in his bed, a stillness to know that life had already left, he was lying in such a picturesque position, on his back, tucked into his blanket with his head facing the window. I rubbed his arm and told him thank-you for everything and that I loved him. I loved my Dad so much. I love my Dad so much. I'm still talking to him and he's an amazing reassuring presence in my life. I'm letting the tears falls and the gratitude be in abundance. The future seems daunting, too hard to enter. I catch myself in the past and it's heartbreakingly sad. I walk past the gifts he delivered to me, the limes on the counter and his bottles of kombucha and his mushrooms that are still growing. They'll eventually die too. We'll all eventually die and I wonder about our communication about grief and death. We had no words left unsaid to each other just a future unwritten that makes me terribly sad to think he won't be apart of. I know I have to redefine his presence in my life but at the moment I'm just letting my body fill with grief and rid it and repeat, the only thing I know how. I'm so grateful we spent so much time in nature together, so the trees and the tiny mushrooms and the weird fermented food will always remind me of him. He poured so much love into our relationship that at times I felt a little undeserving to receive it all but my heart has so much gratitude and I still feel immensely loved.
When he left he took a part of my heart with him and I'm okay for him to keep it. He said he didn't want to leave but he needs me to keep going because my future is one of an amazing happy life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Growing Oyster Mushrooms in a Subtropical Climate

growing oyster mushrooms in subtropical climate

My mushroom journey has been an interesting one. You may have remembered my Feb year of fear challenge was to approach coffee shops for their used grounds in an attempt to grow my own mushrooms. That failed. Not the asking, just the grounds. 

experimenting with growing mushrooms
Nerding out with many experiments in the first couple of months!

I won't rule out coffee grounds as a lovely medium for growing mushrooms, it's just that contamination with mushrooms is an issue and although the grounds should be fairly sterlised after being steamed, there's still quite a few variables when you ask blindly from a cafe. Not the cafe's fault, just it's important to try to reduce your variables as much as possible for a successful harvest. On a side note, the grounds felt so lovely and I can see why people love using them for other things like mulch for their gardens!

growing oyster mushrooms in coffee grounds
Bad mould - gross!

I read and watched many many mushroom growing tutorials and I have a sneaky suspicion what works for one person may not work for the next and I'm guessing the climate you live in is a big factor. So this post is to share some ideas and encourage some personal experimentation!

growing pink oyster mushrooms
My very first growing attempt - a bought kit from mountain top mushrooms!

You will need to buy your mushroom spawn for the right season but you'll also need to experiment with fine tuning your method for the atmosphere you're growing them in. If you were doing it on a commercial scale the most sense would be to have a completely controlled climate warehouse. 

So below is what worked for me who lives in QLD, Australia (in a subtropical climate) during summer. I've started with oyster mushrooms because they're meant to be relatively easy :) My Dad and I have been on this journey together swapping tips and tricks and it's been a fun little geek out!

sunshine coast mushroom business
Produce from mountain top mushrooms - they know there mushrooms! Nice to support local farmers too!


Sugar cane mulch – tick, tick, tick. It's cheap, it's a by product from the sugar cane industry and it's easy to find organic options as that crop is very hardy and often doesn't require pesticides.  I'm lucky that QLD is a sugar growing state.


My dad has had luck with steaming the mulch. I don't have the proper set up to steam, so I've relied on boiling. I've experimenting with boiling the mulch for an hour but 30 minutes seems to be fine as well. If I get serious with mushroom growing I'm going to invest in a different set up because this stage is the most messy & time consuming part - my kitchen looks like a bomb exploded in it afterwards!

growing oyster mushrooms in a bucket
the bucket method

Buckets, with alternating big and small holes drilled around the side. I bought my bucket from my local fruit and veg shop and marked out the holes and drilled away. My Dad has had success with growing his in plastic bags with cotton wool on the top and then once the mushrooms started to appear he removed the bag altogether as you can see below. You can also see all the white mycelium taking over the straw, you want this to happen!

growing oyster mushrooms in sugar cane mulch
Dad's method (the straw needs re-soaking after the first harvest as it dries out quickly!)

CONTAMINATION (my biggest issue!)

My first attempts I assumed failed when I spotted green mould growing on the sugar cane, I freaked out and threw everything out. If you see some green mould, don't freak out just remove it. You  ultimately want the mushroom mycelium to overtake the straw and nothing else.

Thoughts to prevent the unwanted mould in the first place.

Cover the holes up! I covered the small holes with sticky tape and the big holes with cotton wool. The idea is that you want some air flow but to limit contaminates entering. You also need to make sure your bucket/workplace/hands/equipment are all sterilised when you're pepping your mix. Fill your bucket right to the top with your mulch/medium. The mould seemed to gravitate more towards the larger piece of the cane mulch. I'm going to experiment more with this but for now, my plan is to remove any large segments of mulch at the beginning.

Make sure you check your mix 4 -7 days to keep an eye on any potential mould and if you see any remove it! 


The mix is simply your medium (cane mulch for me!) mixed with some mushrooms spawn which my Dad bought online from here and kindly split his batch with me. You don't need a lot of spawn, but just follow the instructions that come with your purchase.  I think they say 10% of spawn to your medium but I used less than 5% and had success. I also didn't worry about being super precise with the ratio!

Ideally your mushrooms want to live in a room with high humidity and no direct light.  My bathroom ended up being perfect :)


You should see some tiny pin heads 2-3 weeks after you first make up your mix. 

When the pin heads appear, remove the tape and the cotton wool (carefully!) from the outside of the bucket. The mushrooms should have successfully dominated the mulch so letting in air isn't such a worry any more, plus at this point you need to start spraying your mushrooms with water. I just used an empty spray bottle and gave the outsides of my buckets a spray every day (more if I remembered!). I also lifted the lid (every few days) and sprayed the mulch directly just to keep everything nice and moist. The one issue with the cotton wool is you can risk pulling off all the tiny pin heads with it so be gentle!

oyster mushroom harvest

Once the pin heads appear the mushrooms will grow to full size with 3-4 days (keep spraying with water). It's incredible to watch just how quickly they grow at this point. You know they are ready for harvest when the outside lip starts to curl back over. If that visual is confusing (it was for me at the start) the mushroom's edges will eventually start to go brown and although still find to eat, it's like watching a banana ripen - you want to eat it at the perfect time! When the mushrooms are ready, cut them off at the base with a knife or scissors and store them in a container in the fridge. They last at least a week in the fridge, maybe more, I just eat them too quickly to know! Oh and once one of the mushrooms starts to curl back over (even if they others on the cluster are much smaller) you need to harvest the lot.

Your bucket should fruit another time and maybe a third! This will take around 2 weeks before you start seeing the tiny pin heads again. I've found continuing to keep the buckets moist with the water spray bottle worked in successfully growing a subsequent harvest.

cooking with oyster mushrooms

I'm still learning and I'll add to this as I gain more knowledge and of course if you have tips please share them!

grow your own oyster mushrooms

Aren't they super pretty!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

bought/gift/made /18

I love the story of my gifted item for this round of bought/gift/made. At our local farmers markets they have a few old gents selling tools. I've been wanting a spokeshave for a really long time for my stools but I've also had a little break from stand making to focus on other areas and so when I finally spotted this spokeshave below, I ummed and ahhed and eventually walked away, knowing I didn't have a use for it right away.  I was with Ben and by the end of the market I decided I was super silly for not getting it because I'd been wanting one for so long and they are really hard to find (second hand!) so we walked back to the stall only to find it was gone.  I walked away trying to convince myself it was only a thing but cursing myself in the same breath for not grabbing it earlier.  Ben hearing my rambling chatter pulled it out of his pocket.  He had ducked away earlier whilst I was immersed in vegetables, to surprise me :)

second hand spoke shave

In the made category, a cat stand I made for our cats.  I saw this incredible cat stand whilst trawling instagram here and it stood out to me because cat stand designs are usually super awful.  I tracked it down to this company but they had stopped selling their stands and now it looks like they have pulled down their website too :(  Anyway full credit goes to them for their amazing design, I just did some reverse engineering and came up with this guy below.  After making it, I was super proud of myself and every time I see Peach on it, I squeal with delight!

minimalist simple cat tree

rose quartz and amethyst
And finally, in the bought category some pretty crystals. I don't buy a lot that isn't food or second hand to be honest (and the 2nd hand things go into my thrifty sunday posts).  I'm no consumerist saint, I definitely buy things just items that fall into the uncool bucket, like an antennae for my car or a peg basket or underwear.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Year of Fear - March

I totally dropped the ball this month for my year of fear and I'm not sure which avenue to wander down in my thoughts, to talk about creative blocks and being kind when they happen or maybe how I was thinking this month would be incredibly easy yet I found myself faced with fear and making a hell of a lot of excuses.  The idea this month was to take portraits in public and as the days started to disappear a constant (nagging!) thought kept reminding me to make this task a priority whilst the other half of my brain told me it wasn't one.  

So my excuses, valid or not included, feeling emotional taxed in my support work job (it happens, usually, for myself, at a 3 year mark with the same client).  Immersing myself into learning about business and feeling drained creativity, having lots of emotions or none at all (I'm partially blaming all the astrological happenings of March!) and just feeling a very low level of motivation (which is odd for myself).  Ben is back from his work hitch today - which feels like a really amazing gift.  In the end I lost track of how long Ben was away for 6+ weeks (?!) everything in March has a tiny haze over it but I really missed hugs and the connection of a conversation that doesn't worry about how strong an internet connection is.

So I'm sending myself a lot of compassion and also for you too, if you found yourself in a similar situation this March.  It happens, it's okay and creativity/love/goodness will come back :)

I thought that my 'jumping into the water' fear (which I'm still diligent keeping up with - bonus points!) would be way harder then any social based fears.  I'm not sure if it was because March was an off month for me or if all my excuses this month were actually more to do with my social fears being crazy high and trying to avoid them at all costs.  I'm interested to see how these next few months pan out. I just wanted to cocoon and be still and not challenge myself personally because I felt challenged externally (if any of that makes sense!).

On a side note, the first week of March I was actually off to a good start and I even managed to go and do something that my 2018 self would have never ever dreamed of doing! Ben had bought a mower and blower (the previous month) off a local guy who fixes and sells second hand equipment.  I got the mower to work fine but the blower's chord wouldn't retract.  We had a whipper snipper that didn't work so I thought I'd go give him the whipper snipper as a peace offering in the hopes he would look at the blower.  I figured Ben has only used the blower once and even though the gentleman mentioned you weren't allowed to bring back equipment I took a big courage breath in and drove over.  The old guy happily took the whipper snipper but didn't offer to fix the blower. He just said to get Ben to look at it when he got home from work.  If I had more courage I would have been more direct but baby steps!

// These photos are actually from the end of January where I was doing a test to see if this could be a potential fear challenge.  Hopefully I'm able to pick the March challenge up again over the year but I'm definitely allowing some deadline breathing room along the way :)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Thrifty Sunday /25

thrift store art supplies

Thrifty Sunday time! The loot above was from a thrift store that had a fill-a-bag of stationary for $4.  I also snagged a bunch of inks (posted below) in the deal as well.  I felt like I had gotten huge value from those items alone that I kept the remainder (about 80%) of the bag empty. When I got to the counter the lady was super kind and ended up throwing in a book (I was going to buy) in as a bonus! It unfortunately turned out to be a sub-par read which I've now re-thrifted but at the time it was a delightful free bonus!

frankie spaces three

 Talking about books (and this time, a great one) Frankie Spaces!!! 
I now own two editions and I'm on the hunt to complete the collection :)

thrifted silver glitter jelly sandals
 Some new silver jellies which (being plastic and all) definitely don't fit my wish-list for the environment but my compromise is to only pick them up whilst thrifting.
kikki k grey pink polka dot mug
 I was going to make myself a coaster for my daily chai but then I saw this cute mug and saucer set which solved the dilemma nicely :)
thrifted drawing ink

 The ink loot!!

thrifted beci orpin home

 Another great book, long time fan of Beci Orpin's work, you can check out her insta here

gloomy bear arm pink keychain

 I think this was 20 cents and then they were having a 50% off sale.  It's kind of crazy to get something for 10 cents, especially a cute gloomy bear keychain!

gold opera house badge

 Opera house badge, so much love for this one!

yellow and pink paint

 Not strictly a thrift score but a market score. There's a guy at my local markets who sells used paints (70-90% full) and at great prices! win/win!

thrifted miss piggy cup

vintage miss piggy mug
And finally, a miss piggy mug!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Canon 5d mark iii Review

So last week I talked about the fuji xt-2 and today I'm looking at the Canon 5d mark 3. I started shooting weddings at the end of 2013, I had bought my 5dmark ii before that and I remember they were releasing or soon to be releasing the 3 but I was pretty stoked to be getting the 2! Fast forward to today and the 2 is really outdated and in the last year or so I've been having those nagging thoughts that I really need to keep up with technology and re-invest.  Cameras are expensive though!

By the start of last year all the photographers I was working with had upgraded to the mark 3 and I'd remember discussing the camera with them and how it sounded pretty darn perfect, finding this sweet spot between the softness of the original 5d mark and the sharpness of the 2 and just with a bunch more ISO

I had my own wedding coming up (normally I shoot for other companies) so to be safe guarded I decided to rent the mark iii.  I hired it for the weekend and on the Sunday after the wedding I took a few test shots to play around and see all the hype.

I honestly thought my photos would vastly improve shooting on more advanced technology (and I'm sure there's a case to be made if you really scrutinised my images) but overall the shooting experience felt very similar.   My big take away was that you don't need to upgrade just for the sake of the upgrade.  Digital cameras don't last forever (and do eventually need to be upgraded!) and sometimes a limiting aspect of technology may be solved with a new model but it's totally okay to use what is working for you now as well :)

If you want to see the wedding I shot on the mark iii, you can check it over here

Below are my sunday-funday test shots, which include convincing Ben to come down to our local park for a portrait! 

portrait in the park

ceramic bunny sculpture

gallery wall in house

monstera leaves

monstera art

brisbane artists

sunflower close up

painting close up

house plants on verandah

couple portrait

park portrait
Have you had a similar experience when you upgraded? Or perhaps the upgrade really helped improve your photography vastly, I'd be super curious to know!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Fuji XT-2 Review

fujinon 35mm 1.4

So I accidentally broke my canon 5d mark ii which at the time wasn't great but it started the dialogue in my brain about whether I wanted to stick with canon moving forward.  They're up to number four in the 5d mark series so at some point I was going to have to make the decision to upgrade or look else where.  My brain nearly exploded from all the decision making, especially because I shoot weddings and thus need a lot of gear apart from just the body; lenses, flashes, cards, batteries, back up body and if I were to do the switch-a-roo I'd need to invest in all of that! Eep

I had heard a lot of good things about the fuji mirror-less system and even though it wasn't a full frame camera it nailed focus (probably the biggest factor in not continuing with canon).

I decided on buying a second hand fuji body + 35mm 1.4 lens (pretty much equivalent to my fav 50mm) to test out.  Below are a bunch of snaps taken from it over a couple month period and I spill all my thoughts about it at the bottom :)

flower happy face

bird flying over jungle

heart rocks on pink paper

australian bush walking

black and white self portrait

hand touching orchid

b&w australian forest

white coral on sand

black and white fern photo

vulva artwork

tree texture

australian waterhole

glower flatlay

b&w sunshine coast

roadside fruit and veg stall

beach walk finds

infinity pool

roadside attraction, qld

b&w bushwalking

organic zucchini roadside stall

qld state forest

So my verdict? I've decided to stick with canon but jump over to their 6d mark range.  Why?  I really really enjoyed fuji but I didn't see enough pros to justify completely changing systems.  The fuji focus is great but then the battery life is terrible.  I loved how small and light weight the xt-2 is and also a big thumbs up for their dial placement (feels like you're shooting on a film camera!).  I edit in Lightroom and the fuji requires an extra step of converting your files to a readable format, only a slight announce but still something to consider.  One thing that the xt-2 model has that I never knew I needed (and why I'm going to be jumping to the 6d mark range) is the wi-fi capabilities!  If you've ever tried to take your own photo and keep jumping out of shot to review the screen then wi-fi is a game changer! Basically fuji has a remote app which you sync up to your camera and then you can hit a button on your phone to take your photo all in real time - AMAZING!  

The biggest thing I've learnt though (especially as I've had to shoot a lot more on my wedding back up body the 5d mark i) is that the camera specs play a much smaller role than you imagine.  Yes, it totally helps having that extra ISO or better focus or dynamic range but once you know your body well and have enough practice you learn to work with the quirks and your vision and creativity will always remain the same whatever system you're using :)

In my camera-figruing-out journey I also rented a canon 5d mark iii so I'll try and put a similar post together next week on that guy :)