Sunday, 29 July 2007

We've Struck Oil !!!

Never thought I get a first-hand taste of living in the Middle East till last Tuesday.

I was visiting Hazra's place in North Burnaby, near the Burrard Inlet. And we were having a fun time with her teaching me how to make a proper Malay Mee goreng. After filling out tummies & just before dessert, I noticed a young fireman walking up her garden path. All my thoughts of how cute he looked in his sleeveless overalls were truncated when he calmly informed us we had to be evacuated from the house. Pronto. There was some sort of oil or gas leak a couple of doors down and all the residents were to be moved to a little pub about 1km away.

The video will give you a better idea of what happened.

The oil spill closed the Barnet highway for 2 days ( a major route from Port Moody to the City) and the environmental damage to the wildlife of the Burrard Inlet is yet to be determined. Apparently a city road crew punctured the pipe and for a while, it looked like the oil strike from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Almost a week later and the pipe's been repaired. The highway's been cleaned up, the homes & gardens covered with the crude oil will probably not restored.
And the funny thing is, for me, the flavour of Nasi Goreng will forever be laced with the pungent & headache-inducing aroma of dark crude oil fumes.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Every Girl Needs a Little Fountain

The sound of flowing water, especially when you live in a busy, bustling,noisy city can give surprising comfort. Maybe it's something to do with the feng shui of having energy made moving by the trickling water. Maybe it's a gentle reminder of the visceral simplicity of being in nature where the body just knows how to relax.

I worked in a wonderful tropical spa on the beautiful island of Bintan for quite a few years before I came to live in BC. In and around this spa were many places where water flowed. From tilted jars made of volcanic rock to large jars overflowing in a symphony of trickles and splashes. It made the plants look lush and helped the over-wrought people who came to the spa chill and thoroughly relax.

Methinks, I was gonna have me one of them water features.

If I were back in Singapore, I'd know where to get one. The Nature Company was the place where the spa used to get all her water features. They have all sorts. From the rustic to the modern to the air-spritzing kind. In fact, for the cost-conscious, they even have simple DIY instructions where all you need to do is to buy the components to build your own little water feature.

But since I'm now living in DIY country. I had to make one on my own. Also, to get someone else to do it would cost an arm & a leg. And then how could I go on crafting? Nothing for it then but to scope out the rock suppliers and garden shops.

My main problem was where would I get the reservoir big enough to hold the water? Since my water feature was on above ground on a balcony I couldn't dig and in ground reservoir. Custom fiberglass containers were priced ridiculously out of range, and most rectangular containers had sides that were too high. Finally, the demon cat came to the rescue. Her litter tray was, why, it was just the perfect size. Ok, I'm not that gross to use her litter tray as my reservoir, but the pet shop down the road had one just like it.

Next step was to choose something from which the water would spout. An object d'art as my favourite City Gardener, Matt James says at least twice an episode. And I'd the perfect thing. An old clay urn I'd found in a deserted fisher hut on the east coast of Malaysia, which I'd lugged home to Singapore and subsequently brought to Canada.

Drilling a hole in its bottom was a heart attack and a half. I'd never done any delicate drilling before! What if I drilled and then cracked it? Breath held tight, heart beating at full gallop, I proceeded. The gods must have been in a good mood that afternoon because it was a hole in one.

Hoses fixed to a pump & into the urn. Bricks around the reservoir, plants placed to soften the hard edges and river rock in the urn to moderate the fountain. And there you have it. Some flowing shui to go with the whipping feng in this wild west coast .

But more than that. It gives me a small sense of being able to make a thought, and idea, a feeling see the light of day.

And that is a good feeling.

Thursday, 19 July 2007


I turned on the radio in the middle of a BBC interview a couple of months ago. Owen Bennett-Jones was on with his programme called The Interview. Had no idea who he was talking to or what it was about until I heard "Plant a Billion Trees". Now that caught my imagination. It turned out to be an interview with Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and environmental activist whom I'd never heard of (shows you the depth of my general knowledge!). There was something down-to-earth and compelling about the way she spoke. I listened on and was happy. Following is the BBC's website's write up on that interview. Click on the link is you want to read some more about her.

"Dig a hole and plant a tree!"

Wangari Maathai is an environmental activist, a Kenyan government minister, a Nobel peace prize winner. Her despair at the chronic deforestation evident in her home country, when she returned after 15 years abroad, led to a simple act: she began to plant trees.
To date she has helped local women plant over 35 million trees in Kenya and she is challenging the global community to plant a billion trees by the end of this year.

The connections she has made between deforestation, hunger and political unrest have brought her powerful enemies as well as international acclaim; of Daniel Arap Moy, the former Kenyan President, she says: "He sure didn't like me much, did he!"

I've always believed that one of the simplest thing a person could do to help the planet remove the CO2 in the atmosphere and lower global temperatures was as easy as to plant a tree. And if you only have a balcony or a window, then plant flowers, herbs or shrubs. Just plant something. Anything.

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks that way. “The symbolism – and the substantive significance – of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on Earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis.” Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

Much of the inspiration comes, I'm sure, from the book (and later Oscar winning animation) titled The Man Who Planted Trees. The story about a shepherd who revives a desolate ecosystem of a secluded valley by single-handedly planting a forest over a thirty year period. And what did he do?....why he planted 100 acorns a day.

Wangari Maathai has an organisation called the Green Belt Movement working in conjunction with UNEP, the United Nations Environmental Programme to get people all over the world to pledge and then plant at least one billion trees in 2007.

If you'd like to get involved, go to the UNEP's Plant a Billion Tree website by clicking on this link There is a space on the on the top right hand corner that tells you the target, how many people have pledged to plant and how many have already planted trees. Currently the tally stands at 1,819,898,686 pledged and 1,008,033,579 trees planted. Looks like we've hit the mark. But several million more can only help rather than hurt. It's a really comprehensive site with links to organisations around the world involved in tree planting and even has technical instructions on how to successfully plant your own tree.

"If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree." Chinese poet, 500 BC

"The best friend on Earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources of the Earth."
Frank Lloyd Wright

"They are beautiful in their peace; they are wise in their silence. They will stand after we are dust. They teach us, and we tend them."
Galeain ip Altiem MacDunelmor

"Though a tree grows so high, the falling leaves return to the root. "
Malay proverb

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
Greek proverb

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." Martin Luther

"The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'"
John F. Kennedy

"Trees are poems that Earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness."
Kahlil Gibran

"A tree is our most intimate contact with nature."
George Nakashima, woodworker

"A tree uses what comes its way to nurture itself. By sinking its roots deeply into the earth, by accepting the rain that flows towards it, by reaching out to the sun, the tree perfects its character and becomes great. ... Absorb, absorb, absorb. That is the secret of the tree."
Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao

"Plant trees. They give us two of the most crucial elements for our survival: oxygen and books. " A. Whitney Brown

"To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals." Mikhail Gorbachev

"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. "
John Muir

"The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings."
Buddhist Sutra

"People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world which cannot sustain people. "
Bryce Nelson

"Reforesting the earth is possible, given a human touch."
Sandra Postel and Lori Heise, Worldwatch Institute

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Face Forward

I had bought an A5 hardback journal for my craft ideas because of its plain white pages. So good for sketching and non linear (read: messy) writing. It was the right size to fit the handbag too, with the hardback protecting its pages.

But the journal was faceless, nondescript and worst of all , grey! Looking as if it should contain spreadsheets or engineering schematics instead of wild, saturated, unrelated ideas fit for gestalt.

Since journals are such personal things, they really should have something on their faces to say who they are and where they are going. Thus inspired, I'm doing a range of Face Forward Journals.

So I decided to jazz up these plain Jane journals with all manner of fabrics to fit all sorts of moods and all types of people.

Using the last bit of a ancient 70's vintage fabric given to me by my mum, I made a pretty zen tile for the cover of one.

Then there's the understated sage & gold tile for another.

And the third is one that ties shut for privacy using a fab golden brocade ribbon taken from the decorated ends of a lime green sari.

There will be more to come. As ideas never stop flowing, we'll always been needing pretty places in which to keep them safe.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Fat Flower's Got A Sister

Yes, it's Fat Flower's sister bag. everyone.

Been fun making it and this bag's got some spunk. Never had as many pin pricks or cuts as I've had making this bag. But at the end of it all, it's been worth it.

She's a bit longer than That Fat Flower Bag, so she can actually take a small folded umbrella. Ermmm...not that I carry umbrellas.
And she's got Labradorite & Shells as ring details on her shoulder straps.

She also has a sly pair of hidden magnets that close the inner pockets. The new owner of the bag won't know why the pockets just seem to want to stay close. I love gadgets.

And I hope someone loves this bag enough to buy it.

It's on Etsy should you know some one looking for another Fat Flower Bag.