things for dollars, things for free

I’m off to Europe in a few months, and trying to squirrel away all my shiny coins in the meantime by cutting out as many expenses as I can. What I’m finding is that I can let go of lots of my lovely lifestyle indulgences, without losing the touch of joy they add! Here’s a few of the things I’m loving, from near and from afar:

Things I haven’t bought (despite temptation):

How to Be a Wildflowerby Katie Daisy: @katiedaisyartist is one of my favourite accounts on Instagram, and I’m lucky to own a couple of stationery items with her illustrations on them! This book is delightfully full of her gorgeous illustrations and musings on nature. If I saw it in the library I would bags it in a heartbeat, but for now I’m resisting ordering it until there’s a special occasion.

Lilla Rogers’ Drawing Faces online course: this is something I know I could improve on and seems like the perfect excuse to get involved in Lilla’s illustration workshops (for those who don’t know, Lilla is an illustration maven and her courses are supposed to be fabulous.) But clocking in around $100 AUD, this is another thing I’ll be saving up for a special occasion (or perhaps as a birthday present hint!)

this lino print by the diggingest girl: I love it. I love it, I love it. I know exactly where on my wall I would hang it. But $50 says no.

honestly, everything flow magazine does is a treat. Of course I want this delightful book about creative mindfulness, complete with Flow’s trademark paper pull-outs and hidden little gifts. (I tried to “add to Wishlist” it just now and got the reminder: “Item already in Wishlist.” That’s how much.) While I’m at it, I’ll take a couple of back issues of their Treasure-trove PaperLovers‘ Books, thanks. But I have so many copies of the magazine already, along with several of their specials and of course access to the blog on their website. This is something I can do without. (For now.)

Things I’m delving into instead:

Instagram: such a beautiful way to pump up your heart full of inspiration! I’m loving the stories for the insight into the humble daily habits of lovely artists! And this post from dick vincent recently was an absolute favourite.

Yoga with Adriene: I am probably coming to this late in the day because Adriene is the top yoga instructor on YouTube, but gosh, her work is so good. Her 25-minute videos are short enough to squeeze into the morning and so popping full of good moves and Adriene’s good cheer that by the time I’m done, I can feel the endorphins rushing around my body. Adriene is fast becoming one of my biggest role models! Try my favourite of her recent videos here.

Speaking of role models: we have to talk about Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot. Not technically free, but since I’m already paying for Netflix, I figure it’s as good as. Although the original show’s concept has always been a little stereotypical and problematic, the new version uses the frame of the makeover as pretty much an excuse to show us open conversations about homophobia, toxic masculinity and self care. These are conversations we need to be thinking about. This is a level of honesty and willingness to reconcile that today’s world needs to aspire to. And yet the team make sure we have fun while we’re doing it!

What are you loving lately?




learnings from a leaf

I was on my lunch break just now, feeling overwhelmed by work and a big weekend, and decided to sit in the park and hide from the world for a little while.

Stretched out on the ground, I spotted the tiniest, perfect-pointed dried leaf among the bigger leaves. It was just big enough to sit on my fingertip.

It was so lovely and tiny and looked how I felt this morning: meek and wrung out. Tiny amongst bigger, stronger beings. Maybe I should keep it, press it in my phone case, as a reminder of something about that. And just as I was thinking along these lines, I accidentally crushed the leaf.

You better believe I gave myself merry hell for that.

But as I got up and brushed myself off to trudge back to work, guess what I saw? A big, lush green tree that had been out of sight where I was sitting, covered in fresh little leaves just like the crusted one id just been treasuring so dearly, mourning so deeply.

Here’s what I learned: we can grasp at one leaf, or we can choose to enjoy the whole tree.

Happy Monday, darlings.



a giftwrapping special occasion.

i mean, they’re all special occasions. i recently read somewhere a reminder that it’s no good for you to save up for a special occasion because every day is a special occasion. but life hands us days on which we simply don’t have time to handle each task like the special occasion it is. and so, a hierarchy.

clearly at the top of the hierarchy (especially because today is a buttery, empty weekend day at my parents’ house, without distractions or commitments) is this: my beautiful friends recently got engaged, to each other, and i had to miss the engagement party.

i’ve known them since they were 20 and they ‘re the kind of couple you aspire to in a relationship. they phoned me, from Switzerland, the night they got engaged.

this is a special occasion.

and so, where i might otherwise use paper from a roll or a book – certainly lovely, but not time consuming – this called for some dedication. i wrapped the gift (whiskey glasses, a bit like these ones, since you ask) in plain brown paper first, to make sure you couldn’t see what was inside. then i pulled out a paint marker and went to work on a second piece of paper.

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today i’m grateful for having the time to celebrate special occasions.

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all my love,

Dora xx

the best photo i took in hawaii (and all the other ones.)

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here it is: the best photo i took in hawaii. this sums up honolulu: the real palm trees flourishing next to a painted mural of yet more palm trees, because why not, let’s make it abundant. i like that i caught the stars and stripes, and the limo driving by, both opulent but dwarfed by the amount of sheer green going on here.

in evidence of how everyday and incidental this lushness is in honolulu: when i took this, i had my back to an IHOP.

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this trip happened last year, almost by accident: my tax return, leave entitlement and a flights sale converged and suddenly i was on my way. it happened in a heartbeat, and let me tell you: i would go back in a heartbeat.

some geography: waikiki is the central beach district in the city of honolulu on the island of oahu in the state of hawaii. i landed alone, after a sleepless flight, at 6am. mum wouldn’t be landing for hours. for me, the best part of the trip was those intervening hours, when i was set free in a different country on the other side of the world.

Continue reading “the best photo i took in hawaii (and all the other ones.)”

a birthday peony

sometimes, painting is a huge project: i’ll spend the week’s walks to work collecting perfect oddments, and then when the day arrives I’ll drag furniture into place, prepare cups of tea, have a plan and colour scheme in mind.

other times, it’s 11pm and my bedtime was 10 and tomorrow is a dear friend’s birthday, and i’ve begged out of the birthday-present whip round by promising instead to be the provider of a custom-made birthday card. we haven’t got a dining table yet so I sit on the floor. I use a corner of the TV cabinet as my desk and hope nothing spills. i use google image search to find a source image that will do, and hope the resulting picture isn’t lifeless because it was done from a photo. this was one of those times.

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my friend Rashmi loves peonies, so i scrolled through fleshy pink blooms until I found one that met my criteria of a) beautiful and b) wouldn’t keep me up past midnight.

i unfurled a who gives a crap wrapper (the best paint spill preventer i’ve found, plus the proceeds of the 100% recycled loo roll that comes inside are used to build toilets in third-world countries!) and got to work.

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and all in all, i think i did pretty well.

i even got to bed by midnight!




five things i really like

  1. Telopea Park, Kingston {see photos above}

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  2. Erin Loechner’s book, Chasing Slow – I devoured it in a single weekend. i’d forgotten how much it was possible to learn from a book. i think maybe i had fallen into thinking that books were just glorified articles, explaining a concept once and then luxuriating in it over and over in each chapter. certainly, some books are like that but this is not one of them. Erin iterates from describing despair, to self-doubt, to buying things to eschew the self-doubt, to minimalism in search of self-worth, to realising that pinning self-worth on minimalism is still a way to make that self-worth conditional when it should be anything but. it carried me into wisdom. if you are worried about how much stuff you have or don’t have or do or don’t do, this may help you like it helped me.

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  3. painter Carolyn Gavin’s joyous instagram. this is the kind of illustrator i wanna be one day!


  4. sienna byron bay is just the sweetest nail polish company. i love that instead of a lump of heavy, dense plastic that will take aeons to break down, they make the lids of their bottles out of reclaimed timber. they even suggest cleaning out the bottle itself to make into a bud vase rather than throwing it away! i came across them by accident in a health foods store and now the two of their colours I have (at $25 a pop, they demand a little financial responsibility)
    {photo from the company’s lovely blog}

  5. this, from Ruby, is everything we need to hear about our bodies this new year:



love love love,



a tiny apartment tour.

in a whirlwind, last december, i moved into a new apartment with a new housemate: Michaela, one of my very best friends in Canberra.

i. was. so. excited.

and the new place is larger, and less new and consequently less stiflingly, don’t-chip-the-paint perfect. (real estate agents, if you have somehow found your way here: we will not chip the paint, at least not intentionally. but it’s relieving to know that if we did, we wouldn’t be the first.)

in the days and weeks between having our lease application suddenly accepted and moving in, Michaela and I were messaging back and forth about energy bills and condition reports and who’d bring what furniture. the one point we agreed on almost without discussing was that we wanted it to feel a little girly and a little kitsch.

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i vividly remember the kmart trip when we got this sign. (yes, the last L is a 7.) it was the day i moved in, and i’d been up at 6.30 to pack boxes and clear houseplants out of harm’s way. by the time we were shopping it was mid-afternoon and i was delirious. everything was tear-jerkingly funny. i remember having an actual laughing fit in the stationery section. if Michaela didn’t know already, not she did: this was what it would be like to live with me. and bless her heart, she was laughing with me.

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we pooled tea and recipe book and Canberra-themed-magnet collections. we worked out what groceries we’d share. we had pesto pasta on the couch, still delirious, facing a TV that we couldn’t plug in yet. it was perfect.

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days and weeks and holidays later, after an IKEA trip and a few solo days at home to straighten things out, it’s coming together. the TV still doesn’t work, but i decorated it for our friend group’s christmas dinner and we seem to be managing without it.

after conscientiously avoiding it (too exhausted, too overwhelmed by how much meaningless crap there was to put into a sensical order), i at last unpacked every single box, hurled an immense bag of clothes into a Vinnies bin, set up the lava lamp and hung a little art:

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it won’t always look this tidy. but it already feels like home.

much much love,

Dora xx

my not-very-secret gingerbread recipe

here’s something embarrassing: I thought I knew where I got this recipe from, and it turns out i was completely wrong. here i was, thinking that this was an adaptation of Kikki.K’s recipe for swedish pepparkakor, and then when I actually went and read that recipe, it was nothing like this one. so here is a gingerbread recipe that i may have dreamed, might have hallucinated, and really just hope i haven’t stolen from someone.

I’m calling this my ‘not-very-secret’ recipe because once upon a time, i kept it closely guarded that i added orange zest to my mix. now, it’s out in the open.

Here’s what you do:


(these are a lot like the Kikki.K ones, which may be why I was confused. Who can tell.)

1 tbsp golden syrup
½ cup soft light-brown sugar
½ cup butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
2 cups self-raising flour, or plain flour with baking powderunnamed-10.jpg


  1. Put a medium-sized pot on the stove at a very low heat and pour your golden syrup brown sugar and butter in. Stir gently. Then add your cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and the orange zest.
  2. Take the pot off the heat and start adding your flour little by little, stirring in between. Depending how exact you were with your measurement of golden syrup (if you’re like me – not very exact at all), you may need to add a little more flour until you reach a nice consistency.
  3. Roll out your gingerbread mixture and cut it into shapes, people, or if you’re feeling really ambitious, the blueprint of a gingerbread house!
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes.