a big fish called mitso

Finally. My big fish is finished!

I began this guy back in the first lockdown but got sidetracked with other projects. He did take a long time to make, but it didn’t have to be two years!

He began as bits of scrunched up newspaper, lots of masking tape and cardboard. Then came home-made paper pulp (with drying time) and air dry clay (more drying time). Then came the paint (yet more drying time). Then came the seaweed scales which meant collecting seaweed from the beach, washing it, drying it (still more drying time), cutting it into scale size and finally gluing them on one at a time with hot glue (at the cost of a few fingerprints).

Lastly came the base.

That was a hard one. Originally I wanted him on a block of wood but didn’t have anything suitable. Then I decided to hang him on the wall where he spent a while, not looking quite right.

Then one day while walking Lainee on the beach, I found the perfect piece of driftwood! Complete with nails and bits of paint. Perfect.

(Lesson 1: walk Lainee on the beach more often. Lesson 2: never leave behind anything which might come in useful one day.)

I already had some rusty bits of rebar (I mean, who doesn’t?) which became the official fish ‘holder uppers’. A bit of drilling, a bit more gluing et voila! Done.

I’m calling him ‘Mitso’. A good greek name. Mitso the fish is now sitting in Cecelia’s Art Gallery in Parikia, along with some of my painted marble. He’s waiting for his forever home if anyone is interested!

I must say, I feel a sense of accomplishment having finally finished him and moved him off my kitchen table!

z

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cluttercore – well there you go!

I am vindicated.

Seems the new fashion is clutter! I’m way ahead of my time…

As you know, I live in a small apartment of 50m2 with one bedroom, kitchen/living room and bathroom and two small outdoor spaces. Uncovered, so useless for doing any work.

So, my home is a studio. I live, cook, and eat amongst my ‘stuff’.

A couple of weeks ago, in my efforts to get my art mojo back, I put away things I don’t plan on using again soon – ie all my sewing, textile and bead stuff. I still need to finish that job as there are still things around I can do without having at my fingertips. Plus, I’ll probably still need this and that again. Story of my life.

Anyway, all I want out at this time is my painting stuff: canvases, paints, pastels, easel, paper, marble pieces, rocks, etc. Anything I can paint on… or with.

The rest can all go in the wardrobe and outside in weatherproof boxes.

I really need more space… I sound like a broken record.

Anyway, my mojo is back. Where all I did for a couple of months after I got home from work or dog grooming was to lie on the couch and watch Netflix, now I come home and paint while listening to audiobooks (or watching Netflix). A much better use of my time.

I not only have my mojo back, but its a strong one. I WANT to paint. I love this feeling.

Also, its healthier… When I lie on the couch like a sack of potatoes all I want to do is eat and nibble… Not good. I’d lost so much weight after my surgery February last year I feel horrible about gaining half it back. Time to get serious about NOT nibbling.

So, I have stuff to begin sharing again now, its just a matter of starting to post again. Finding the time and energy between layers of paint or working.

Meanwhile, in the vein of a general life update, I’ve begun a new job… this isn’t what I really wanted, but its all year round so that’s good. Its an office job in a real estate agency.

The pros: They’re dog people and love Lainee, so she can come to work with me every day. I meet new people. Its a pleasant environment and I really like the other office girl. The boss is nice and his wife is nicer. Its airconditoned so I won’t melt in summer and its close to home. Plus its a steady income all year round. Its 9-3 every day except Sunday (having only one day off is a bummer), but then again, even most office jobs in Greece tend to be 6 days a week.

The cons: I really didn’t want an office job. Again. I’ve spent so much of my life behind a desk and in front of a computer. Oh well. A few more years… The pay sucks. I mean really sucks. But I’m meant to get a small percentage of the commission when a property sells, so let’s see how that works out.

And I have plans. Or dreams. Call them what you will, but I’m focussed on them right now. And hopefully, as Kevin Costner said, “build it and they will come”. We’ll see.

I’m putting it out there, envisioning what I want and if the universe hears me, it will happen!

z

NOT abducted by aliens

Thought it was time to show some signs of life. Albeit weak and tiny ones.

I’m alive.

I’m still a resident of this planet.

I’ve just been tired; fatigued; overworked; fagged; flagging; overtaxed; spent; worn out; all in; burned out; dead on my feet lazy; stuffed; dog-tired; done for; droopy; drowsy; played out; done in; haggard; narcoleptic; petered out; pooped; run down; tuckered out; buggered; worn out; prostrated; sleepy; knackered; bushed; beat; shagged; shattered; zonked; exhausted; fried; cream crackered; rooted; groggy; bust; jiggered; weary; apathetic; stick a fork in me – I’m done; bog-eyed; wall-falling; and many many more words to the same effect.

Not to mention lazy.

z

eating in the netherlands…

When in the Netherlands my food/breakfast of choice is cheese on sliced bread. I could live on it. It was the first dutch word I learned: kaas = cheese. In fact, soon as Inge knows I’m visiting she goes out and buys cheese – usually jong belengen (a young/mild gouda). I sometimes eat it plain on bread and other times with honey. If you haven’t tried that, do. Its a yummy combination.

A cheese shop in Zutphen. Look at the cheeses in the window upstairs!

While visiting the Netherlands this time I wanted to re-visit the comfort food I’ve tasted over the years. Nostalgia is something that comes with age…

I wanted some dutch fast food – like french fries called ‘patat’ or ‘frites’ met mayonaise – served in a paper cone or plastic tray, with a small fork and sauce of your choice – most commonly mayonaise!

No trip to the Netherlands would be complete with kroketten or bitterballen. They are virtually the same thing in a different shape. These crunchy delights are usually meat, cheese, and gravy that are refrigerated, rolled into logs, breaded and deep-fried until they develop a golden-brown color. You can now buy oven fried varieties for home which is great. I like mine on their own but the dutch usually eat them squased between slices of bread or in a bread roll.

Kroketten
Bitterballen

These and other fast food can be purchased quickly and easily in automats… An automat is a fast food restaurant where food and drinks are served via vending machines. Amsterdam is now considered to be the automat capital of the world so they’re worth visiting at least once.

They don’t tend to have automats in smaller cities. In those you have to actually go to a fast food shop and order properly.

Fast food delivery by bike.

Other classic dutch comfort food includes stamppot or hutspot. Both are traditional dutch dishes made from a combination of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables, usually carrots, onions, endive or kale. Its usually served with rookwurst – a smoked sausage, or a piece of braised beef. I’ve also had it with bacon bits, sauerkraut and pineapple. Its the ultimate winter food.

Let’s talk sweets… cause as you know, I have a sweet tooth… There’s the dutch pancake, pannenkoek, a big thin pancake (more like a crepe than an american pancake) that can be served sweet or savory. I love them with apple… must try it at home.

Then there are oliebollen – dutch doughnuts with sultanas, currants or raisins in them and are dusted with powdered sugar. Traditionally a New Year’s Eve treat, but at the Salamanca market in Tasmania a stall sells them pretty much all year round.

But we can’t forget the tiny dutch pancakes called poffertjes. These small, fluffy pancakes are usually served with a dab of butter and icing sugar and sold at festivals and street stalls.

I have a few favourite dutch biscuits… first are koggetjes, lovely thin crispy butterscotch cookies. Absolutely addictive and very sweet. I could only buy these in dutch specialty stores in Australia at a dutch bakery in Tasmania.

Another super crispy thin cookie is the kletskoppen – with peanuts. Only found in Holland it seems as I haven’t seen them elsewhere.

The most ‘dutchest’ of sweets is the stroopwafel. Two thin waffles stuck together with a layer of sweet caramel syrup. You can buy these all over the world now but are best fresh, hot and gooey from a street market or bakery.

And last but not least, speculaas – spiced cookies you can get everywhere and go so well with your coffee.

I really had to come back home in order to stop eating all this stuff!! Not to mention the licorice.

Back to eating sensibly.

z

visiting van gogh – my blog is still in holland while i’m in greece

I’m back on Paros and I haven’t yet caught up on blog posts from my trip. So in order to catch you up and move on, I figured I’d start with my last day which was a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

I’ve always had a kind of hit and miss relationship with the work of ol’ Vincent, but there was plenty to see and it was actually quite interesting to see painting he did in his explorations of styles and colour.

There were a lot of self portraits…
I was particularly taken with this painting of red cabbages… perhaps due to my recent experience dyeing fabric with it… Nah. I think I just liked it.
One of my favourite paintings. It was funny to read about how obsessed Vincent was with perspective and how he used a perspective frame when painting. All I could think of was “where was the persepctive frame when he painted his bedroom”.
I especially loved this portrait of a boy…
… and this portrait of a man. Brilliant.
Of course, I loved seeing his tools as well.

Visit the Van Gogh Museum website if you want to see more.

Moving right along…

I have no idea why this trip was the first time I notice/saw/learned about the Stolpersteine

Scattered throughout Europe, planted in the streets and sidewalks of cities whose past is not forgotten, commemorative brass plaques eternalize the lives that were lost in the great tragedy of the 20th century. Called the Stolpersteine (in English: “stumbling stones”), the shiny bronze plaques commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime in more than 1,100 locations in 17 European countries.

More than 45,000 of these stones are solidly rooted across cities in Europe, including 916 places in Germany alone, where large strides have been taken to memorialize Jewish life, history and culture. Each Stolperstein commemorates a victim of the Holocaust at that person’s last known address. The plaque includes the victim’s name, date of birth, deportation date and death date, if known. In Berlin, more than 5,000 Stolpersteine have been carefully implanted in the city’s sidewalks and streets, serving as a constant reminder of the many valuable lives lost tragically during the Holocaust.”

Walking in the streets of the Netherlands, one often comes across a friend in a window…

Or some very strange friends in other windows…

Its always pretty on the narrow streets of old towns with their cobblestone roads. I’ve always loved them.

I saw quite a few buildings with text on their walls. Usually quotes from famous authors like the one below. (Don’t ask me to translate!)

As I’ve said before, the dutch are really good at combining the old with the new – below is the Zutphen town hall where they incorporated the original building into a modern structure with a glass ceiling, creating an interior courtyard with a lobby and reception for the new building.

The first time I ever saw large communal tables in a cafe was in the Netherlands – and I confess I love them. I love sitting at a large table in a cafe anyway, its way more homey than sitting at a tiny table for two. But I also quite like sharing a big table with strangers. I’m odd that way. This cafe in Zutphen didn’t have a huge communal table, but the the idea is still there. Sit and meet new people. Yay. (We didn’t. Inge had reserved a table for three of us.)

I don’t remember the name and don’t have any photos of it, but there was a lovely cafe in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam which had the best, huge, rustic table to share. I spent a lovely day rollerblading in the park with a friend and having a coffee to warm up afterwards at a communal table very much like the one below.

There were also countless hours spent sitting at communal tables in many cafes in Melbourne having coffee or brunch over the years… with rollerblades on and without. ah, those were the days!

Now, just for fun, here are photos of textures… I’m obsessed with textures… I have a huge collection of photos of walls, roads, timber, bark, etc… So, here are some dutch textures.

A cafe wall.
The gate to an old building.
The external wall of a new house with some discolouration to make it interesting.
The external wall of an old house.
The bricks of the Zutphen wall.
A street.
Another street.
Another street.
A fancier street.

I think that wraps up my Netherlands trip.

From now on its back to boring ol’ me and my life and creations on Paros.

z

the best second hand shop

No visit anywhere would be complete (for me) without at least one visit to a second hand shop of any sort. Junky, antique, I’m there.

This second hand shop was in a town close to Inge’s place and since we were driving past… Well… we had to stop. Just like we had to stop at every single dog we met on a walk. For me, greeting dogs is part of the pleasure of being on a walk!

Anyway, this time I visited a fantastic second hand shop and made a wonderful new friend: a chi x papillon named Irco. Such a gorgeous boy! And small enough I could have fit him in my pocket…

But I didn’t. I looked around the shop, lost Inge a couple of times, and admired how organised the place was. It was huge but so well divided into sections you could find what you were after easily.

Keeping like things together, not only makes sense, but in the way of collections: a lot of any one thing can look amazing. Like the clocks and lamps. or this chest of marbles.

Or bikes for that matter!

And coloured glass.

Even pots and other kitchenware looks good ‘en masse’.

I saw tons of things I would could have bought if I lived there. Some I’d have taken to Greece too, but of course I can’t do that. Most trips these days are done with a single carry on bag of up to 8 kilos…. doesn’t allow for much shopping! Probably for the best…

Inge on the other hand, could buy anything she wanted and she found a lovely old mirror for her hallway. Just the sort of thing I’d have bought. I approved.

Being a Monday not many shops were opened so we weren’t able to visit a couple of others I spotted (I can spot a junk shop from miles away at high speed). Oh well. I’ll just have to come back!

I really would make a strange travel blogger wouldn’t I? More interesed in dogs and thrift stores than the things most people would photograph and share online… Hm… Guess its a good thing I’m not a travel blogger!

z

the zutphen wall

Zutphen is one of the oldest settlements in the Netherlands, and part of the old wall protecting the city still stands. I’m no historian so you can read about it here if you want to know more, but I just loved the old structure.

Its interesting how the end of the wall has been ‘finished’ with modern metal end, adding an element of the new to the old. I love the way the dutch seem to do that so well.

How lovely are the apartments that look over the canal. A lady sat reading a book in the sun on one of the balconies. A beautiful, restful spot…I do wonder how they keep these old buildings (or even new ones!) from crumbling from the constant moisture.

What is even more amazing (to me) is that parts of the wall are actually inhabited! Can you imagine living in something so old? I come from Australia where everything is relatively new so it amazes me that not only are there such old buildings in Europe, but that most of them are still lived in!

This balcony has a coat or armour for protection.

Plans change from day to day – we were meant to spend some time in The Hague yesterday but Inge’s daughter tested positive so that was off the table. Instead we babysat her grandaughter in Leiden for a few hours instead. Well, she babysat her grandaughter while I spent quality time with Pim, their cat.

Basically a quiet day with a couple of walks, no visit to the museaum we’d planned. Oh well. Next time. I know I’ll be back!

z

old fashioned candy store and a tiny museum

Who can resist an old style candy store? Not me, thats for sure. I always love visiting them and buying a small bag of something each time wherever I am.

This visit to the candy shop in Zutphen was no different. The old man that ran the shop gave us a taste of polka brokken, a brittle candy with a buttery taste and we had to take some home with us. In the traditional cone shaped paper of course.

Its not just the candy I love though. Its the smell, the colours and packages and jars in these old shops.

The many many types of ‘drop’.
The paper cones hanging from above, ready to be filled with candy.
Making use of old tins.

Next door to the candy store is the smallest museum – this is the first office of the now huge dutch insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden.

A video plays with the history of NN.

Its a single tiny room with enough space for one bookcase, a desk, a chest for keeping files, a coat stand and little else… so different to the company my friend’s daughter works for now.

A little history, a little candy… what more can a girl ask for?

z

visiting my favourite country – the netherlands

I’m finally back in Holland after years of Covid and cancelled trips. I just love Holland. I first came here for Christmas when I was 17 years old, to visit my friend Inge who I’d met on Paros that summer.

After that she would visit me on Paros each summer and I would visit her in Utrecht each winter.

Those were the days… Student clubs, cafe crawls on bike in freezing weather, meeting people, learning to ice skate, having fun. I’ve always felt at home in Holland, like I belonged here… maybe in a previous life…

There was the time I considered applying to art school in Amsterdam instead of going back to Australia. And the time I applied for a job with Greenpeace. I got an interview, but by then I’d decided to return to Aus. How different would my life had been had I taken that fork in the road. Its something I think about now and then, the path not taken.

After I moved back to Australia I only visited when I could make the trip to Europe. Every trip to Greece included a stop-over in Holland. It was something I always did.

Having visited here so many times over the years my trips here are more to see Inge and spend time with her and her family than it is to sightsee. This trip however, I wanted to revisit some places I haven’t been in years. Meanwhile a trip to the supermarket is always fun for me. I love seeing the different things on shelves in different countries.

For instance, the licorice section in dutch supermarkets is always huge. There are so many variations on the ‘drop’ – which is what they call licorice candy here. It comes in sweet or salty and everything in between.

Then there’s the hagelslag section… I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else. Chocolate and candy sprinkles to put on your bread! I mean, I grew up in Australia where a staple of children’s parties was fairy bread (for those that don’t know it, its Hundreds and Thousands on buttered white bread, back when it was ok to feed children candy, white bread and butter!), but here it seems not only children eat chocolate shavings or sprinkles on their bread. First time I had it was when visiting a friend in Amsterdam when we were 20yrs old or so…

But this time I saw something I’d never seen before, though apparently its always been available and much loved by dutch children:

Are you familiar with the dutch spiced cookies called speculaas?

So, these bread topppings are basically tiny speculaas bits…

Odd? For sure. So I had to try them…

My opinion: I prefer to get a handful and nibble on them that way. Its interesting to have the crunchy texture on your bread, but cookies on bread? Nah… and I have a sweet tooth the size of Australia. I will eat almost anything sweet. Just not this.

However, having tried it, I am now officially a dutch child.

Only a few decades too late.

z

first attempt at vegetable dye

Perhaps not entirely my first attempt to dye something using natural dyes, but I’m thinking dyeing poodle ears with beetroot juice doesn’t really count…

I’ve also done heaps with tea and coffee, but again, I’ve always considered those more of a stain than a dye.

This time I got it into my head to try to make my own re-usable shopping bags out of the millions of vintage plain linen sheets I’ve been collecting from mom and my aunts. Great fabric, but not great as sheets any more cause most of them were made for shorter beds than we have now.

Anyway, I had the sheets so I cut one up and made 2 shopping bags in the most simple way I could (ie no side gusset). The whole point was to make something I could carry with me easily.

I also wanted the bags to be pretty so I needed colour – using natural dyes and stamps. Hence the Junk4Joy stamps I made. Fiddly for a first attempt at linocut in years.

I wanted to brand the bags obviously. I even added a wonky recycled logo to the name.

I did a lot of reading about natural vegetable dyes online and decided to go with purple cabbage to start with as I liked the colour. Plus I’d just made some rice paper rolls and had purple cabbage on hand.

Following the instructions, I boiled the cabbage, then strained it into a bowl. I added salt as a mordant (cause I have no idea where or how to get pot ash) and got to dyeing.

I wanted an ombre look so I wet the bags and hand dipped them a few times, then let them hang in the solution overnight.

The resulting colour is very soft. Maybe I needed more cabbage and less water, who knows. Still, its quite pretty for my first attempt.

After they dried, I ironed them then got out the fabric printing ink I’d bought with the linocut supplies and stamped on the logo. Last I added a button and some elastic so the bags can be rolled up and put in a handbag.

Pretty cute I’d say.

To be honest I’m not sure I’ll bother trying to make bags to sell… I had a long conversation with myself lately and the upshot of it was that I do too much. I spread myself too thin with all the creative projects I do. I’m better off to stick to what I’m best at and that is painting. I’m an artist AND a creative person with unlimited interests, but I am better off concentrating on the work that I’m best at in order to earn some money from it.

My pet portraits on commission and my marble and rock paintings sell. It makes sense to concentrate on that.

Making bags or critters from recycled fabric or baskets from found ropes etc are all lovely and fun. So are my art from trash dog and bust sculptures. But most of those things take a lot of time and space and so far haven’t sold. The aim is to sell stuff.

I have tried selling online a lot over the years, but postage has always been an issue. I’m not saying I won’t try ebay or my esty shop again, or even Facebook, just that it seems selling something for under 10-20e with postage of over 15e seems ridiculous.

Anyway, there’s always so much to do and so little time.

z