Wednesday, 7 December 2016

make an easy lightbox

I'd like to share my dodgey easy lightbox. You know, for when you need to photograph something small and need to be able to do it without glare or shadows.

Well, I failed in that. But I think its the lighting rather than the box that's to blame.

But first, lets explain the term 'dodgey' for those who don't speak Australian. The Urban Dictionary defines it as:
Australian term.
1. Something or someone that is a bit suspicious, doesn't seem quite right. Doesn't seem the real deal.
2. Slack, broken, worthless or useless.
3. Not very appealing.
1. That car salesman seemed a bit dodgey.
2. This old car is pretty dodgey.
3. That band last night were pretty dodgey.

As you can see, dodgey is my middle name.

So, how to make your own lightbox?

Get a largish cardboard box. Cut out 3 squares - one on top and one on either side, but not the back or the bottom. Well, you could, but it'd be a waste of time.

Now the first time I did this I threw an old white sheet over the box as my light diffuser (yeah, I know technical terms!)

This time I got more professional. I cut out squares of white fabric and taped them onto the box. Real professional. I was going to use hot glue but tape was easier - ie it was there on the table next to me.

Note the overabundance of bits of tape in the picture. I used the box flaps to reinforce the sides and top, using tape to attach them. Classy.

Almost there. Get a large sheet of white paper. Glue or tape that to the top of the back, curl it where the back meets the bottom to create that no horizon look, then lay it down flat at the bottom.


Now all you need is light. 

I collected all the spare lamps I had in the house. One tall reading lamp. Two smaller lamps. Ideally you want bendable lamps you can angle at the windows, and you need them to kind of match light-wise. Strength I mean. I didn't have matching ones. Hence the uneven lighting in my images.

Whatever. It was better than taking photos with a flash.

That's it. Your lightbox is ready for masterpiece photos.

Mind you, you really do need a tripod for taking photos, so if you have one get it out and set it up in front of the lightbox.

Surely you can do a better job than mine, but hey, I now have a lightbox, dodgey as it is, set up in my office for every time I want to take photos.

I'd say I've done well,


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Sunday, 4 December 2016

birds not so welcome

Its summer. We have a house with all sorts of nooks and crannies which birds find perfect for raising their young. Every spring and summer our roof is full of bird families being raised. 

Its not as nice as it sounds. Our deck and everything on it gets covered in bird poop, there is constant rustling in the roof and the birds nests are a fire hazard and attract rodents. Yuck.

This is one example of the easiest to reach spots. The light fittings on the back porch. Pretty huh?

Here are three of the many nests I removed from above these lights this spring. 

I actually had to remove them every couple of days. It took weeks for the birds who were nesting there to get tired of rebuilding and go elsewhere.

The story was not without casualties. One of the nests had two eggs in it.

Pretty little speckled blue eggs. And one of them broke when I pulled out the nest. sigh. Barney helped clean it up. He likes eggs.

I love the bird songs and I love watching them hop around the place. We have swallows and sparrows and blackbirds and many spotted pardalotes and my favourite, wrens.

I do not love the bird poop or the rustling overhead or the fact that they're a fire hazard.

Better go patrol the lights again. Its been a week of quiet on that front and I bet someone else has moved in.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

doll remake - the walking dead bratz dolls!

I'm a big Walking Dead fan. Huge fan.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking... zombies, brains, blood, gore...??? Well, I'd have said the same thing before I got hooked on the series. A friend gave me Season 1 and I had nothing better to watch one day...

That was the end of it. I'm addicted. I share this addiction with a few close friends and I do my best to spread the contagion around. My brother said no way to watching it. He's now hanging out for each new episode of Season 7.

What can I say?

Anyway, this post isn't about my TV habits. Its about my newest hobby. Passion if you like... Bratz dolls. 

REMADE Bratz dolls.

There's a lady here in Tasmania who's gotten famous worldwide with her Bratz remakes. She takes the extreme dolls and makes them into 'normal' kids.

As much as I admire the motivation behind her remakes, I think the dolls are boring. Plain. 

From an art perspective of course! :)

When I got my first Barbie a few months ago I began a downhill slide... I now have 5 Barbies. All early 60's versions. One of them had missing hair plugs and another has a green face. I bought them thinking I would have a go at restoring them after seeing the amazing work some people do on dolls. More on the Barbies in the future.

Meanwhile I became obsessed with doll remakes and repair. I watched videos. I read blogs. I itched to make my own dolls. I found some Bratz in a local 2nd hand store and brought them home. One had her hair cropped off and that inspired me to make Carol from the Walking Dead. Another was a black girl so it was obvious she was Michonne. I chose these characters because I love them and find them inspiring.

My Carol doll already had cut off hair so after washing her and removing her face, I gave her a better haircut first up. Dolls who aren't meant to have short hair aren't rooted evenly all over their heads, so she had bald spots. I used tacky glue and tufts of hair to fill these in. 

When her face was dry I did my first ever face repaint using a photo of Carol for reference. I gave her stud earrings and then began to dress her.

I made all Carol's clothes myself. Imperfectly. I'm not the best sewer when working on human sized clothing, imagine making stuff under 3 inches big!

When Wayne saw me ironing Carol's shirt he about flipped. I don't iron HIS shirts! :) In my defense, I only had to plog the iron on top of the shirt as it lay flat...

Anyway, moving right along, I made Carol a singlet out of an old jumper, a shirt with seed beads for buttons, and cargo pants out of scraps of fabric. At this point I'm glad I keep all kinds of crap. I made my own patterns using some old Bratz clothes I pulled apart and a lot of guesswork. Naturally patterns are a fluid thing here... always changing cause I always seem to get something wrong! Still I'm loving doing it.

Carol has a trench knife (actually she has two, one is bigger than the other with a silver blade, the other is all black) and a gun. Her belt is made of a tiny strip of leather off an old jacket I bought years ago and never did anything with. The buckle is a rusty washer. The knife sheath is also made from the same leather.

Since Bratz feet and shoes are all one, I had to find a way to make Carol some boots. At the time I didn't have any which suited, the best I could do were these high heeled sandals which I made into boots.

First I painted them, twice to get the shade right. Then I added laces... Talk about tiny work! I got slivers of leather, put bronze coloured crimps at each end and glued them in place. Voila. Lace up boots. I even scuffed them up a bit.

Here is the before and after photo.

Michonne was a much bigger remake.

With Michonne I had to remove all the doll's hair, repaint the face, then give her dredlocks. I did this by wet felting squares of black and different shades of brown wool. I then cut those up and worked them into dreds. I glued those onto the doll's head one layer at a time, making a head band out of a scrap of fabric.

Michonne's jeans are original Bratz clothes but the rest of her outfit I made myself. The leather jacket and belt are both made from the same leather jacket. Details were painted on the jacket. The belt has silver studs which I just realized aren't visible in the photos...

Since I couldn't give her gloves I gave her a wristband - a Monster High accessory I adapted. Her boots were a wierd tan brown so I painted them black with silver details to look like biker boots.

The hardest bit of Michonne is her katana sword. I've made 3 of them so far. The first was air dry clay didn't take the paint well - so it crackled... Nice effect in itself, but on a sword? The second was all polymer clay and I broke it while trying to straighten it. The third is a mix of hammered wire and polymer clay. That was looking really promising till I broke the handle yesterday while try to pose her with it in her hand. I'll be making another one today, with more wire in it to keep it strong.

Both the katana and the sheath need painting for Michonne to be finished. Then I'll list them both on ebay. I'm hoping they'll make someone happy this Christmas.

I've been going through some stuff recently and I've spent a lot of time just wasting time, feeling down. That's the reason I decided to stop blogging. I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep going with it at the time. But then I thought I wouldn't let something else stop me doing something I enjoy.

This new hobby has been great for me as its something that I enjoy doing and has been making me feel so much better. I love being creative but when I'm down I can't find the motivation to do anything. Doing dolls, even in bits and spurts as I've been doing these girls, is a small way to get me up and doing stuff.

So does the garden. And my dogs. And grooming dogs. Those are things which make me feel good about myself, so I'm doing them as much as I can. I was told I needed to look after myself and make myself happy. Doing a radio show on Sundays where I play music I love, making art, DIY stuff, the garden and dogs are what make me feel good inside.

And I'm a show off so I'm showing off what I make!


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Monday, 21 November 2016

spanakopita the way mom makes it

I don't cook much. I used to enjoy cooking, but I got tired of doing it all the time. Now I only cook when the mood takes me. These last couple of weeks that I've been off work I've been cooking more than usual as I figure I owe it to Wayne. He works hard, long hours, and he deserves to come home to a cooked dinner... Though meat and two veg isn't my type of dinner.


On Sunday I decided it was time to make a spanakopita again. I hadn't made one for months! Maybe even a year!

Its really easy, except the rolling out dough bit... I'm useless at that as you can see by the top of it in the pic... 

I've had a fear of pastry all my life, since the time I made pizza dough that you could use to panel beat a car with. But this pastry is easy peasy. Even I can do it. And its so tasty!

Anyway, I thought I'd share the love and post the recipe so you can try it yourselves. The pastry recipe I got from a greek lady in Hobart, the filling is what mom taught me years ago.


2 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups boiling hot water (the recipe I got was typically greek - it said 1 glass of water! Glass, what's a glass? A tall glass? A wine glass? A tumber?)
1/2 cup olive oil (or 3/4, again I had to translate the glass thing... 1/2 a glass of olive oil is roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cups apparently... at least by my numerically challenged calculations)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and turn it on. It'll knead itself. Let it cool a while before turning out onto a floured surface.


500g frozen spinach (or the equivalent in fresh spinach which I'm too lazy to use)
1-2 leeks
dill. Plenty of it. I use those small tubes from the supermarket and use the whole thing. 
2-3 eggs
feta cheese cut into cubes. (same applies: plenty of it)

I defrost the spinach, strain and squeeze the excess water out of it and put it in a bowl. Chop up and lightly brown the leek in a frying pan, let it cool a bit and add it to the bowl. Squeeze in the dill (or chop it up and add it if you're one of those annoying 'all fresh' kind of people). Cut up and add the feta. Gently beat the eggs and add them. Mix it all together. 

Line your baking tray with baking paper. If you're good enough to roll out half the pastry into one big sheet you can then deposit into the baking tray without it breaking, stretching or folding onto itself, then go ahead and do it that way - show-off.

If you're like me (useless), put half the pastry in the middle of the tray and then use your fingers to spread it out till it covers the entire surface and even up the sides a little bit.

Spread the filling all over it.

Then comes the fun part... roll out the pastry and put it on top. If you can do it in one piece then, wow, you win a cigar. If not, do what I do and just roll out bits and pieces and do a patchwork top. Your stomach won't care.

Bake it in a moderate oven till its nice golden brown on top.


Its great hot, warm and cold. I keep mine in the fridge and just grab a bit for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

No wonder I haven't made it for that long. I made it once a week for a while and OD-ed on it.


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