sirisa clark

the things I do and the words I choose


Make like a tree and shrink

I’ve been wondering what on earth to do with my sapling from Saturday’s race.

I picked out a silver birch, because I love their pale shiny bark, and their leaves. Their leaves are so numerous, and yet never dense, like a shiver of green sequins.

Not that my sapling looks anything like that yet – it looks very much like a leafy twig, its regular old brown stem thinner than a pencil, and sprouting five rather scraggly-looking leaves.

I’d love to give him the chance to grow into a strapping great tree, but I don’t have a garden in which to plant him.

I tried to give him away to my neighbour, a keen gardener with an amazing garden and quite a few established trees. But he didn’t want him, and even as I was proffering my scraggly twig-tree, I felt like I was trying to palm off a puppy or a kitten. A tree is not just for Christmas y’all!

Then a friend at work made a suggestion: bonsai. Bonsai! Of course! I have always wanted a bonsai tree, or at least since I was very little and lived with someone who had a bonsai. He even had tiny ceramic men who stood under the tree and added a degree of proportion to its shrunken world.

A bonsai will have all the characteristics of the adult silver birch, but in miniature.  It can go with us wherever we move, garden or no. And it will go really nicely with the four orchids from our wedding, which I am delighted I have not yet killed!

I just have to learn how to bonsai now… I’ve spent half the evening reading up and getting largely contradictory information. I think I am getting to grips with some of the general principles, but I’m not sure how to get from my little twiglet to something that looks like a tree that’s been hit by a powerful shrinking ray.

But, I’ve just stumbled upon this video, and I think this is the kind of no-nonsense (Aussie), suck it and see approach I can get on board with.

If any of you have any hints or tips on how to get started with bonsai, please hit me up in the comments!



how do you like them apples?

I went for it – I made the apple tart.

Step 1: thinly slice your apple. Discover apples are a bastard to slice thinly, due to slippery nature of a sphere.

slippery bastards

Step 2: Remember to turn the oven on.

Step 3: Toss apple slices in lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Mmmm, cinnamon

Step 4: Wonder where the hell your only baking tray is.

Step 5: Find it in the oven. Decide the oven hasn’t been on long enough to heat it.

Step 6:  Find out you are wrong. Run burnt finger under tap.

Step 7: Spread ready-made puff pastry sheet on baking tray. Hope it hasn’t been sitting in fridge too long and lost all its puff.

Step 8: Pause periodically to take photos for blog. Wonder how other bloggers a) have patience to stop in the middle of everything to take photos, and b) do absolutely everything in life beautifully lit in natural daylight.

Step 9: Decide apricot jam would make a good glaze and smear all over pastry, right up to edges.

Artfully located Bonne Maman jar, so you know it’s top notch

Step 10: Carefully lay out apple strips in long thin lines fanning across each other.

Step 11: Find there are many strips of apple left. Try to smoosh them in without messing up attractive pattern. Find yourself tucking apple slices under each other, and wonder when your life got weird.

Step 12: Pop that shizzle in the oven!

Step 13: Remember you need to take a photo for your blog. Pull that shizzle back out again.

Oh well. The taste is more important than the look.

Step 14: Cook for 10 minutes.

Step 15: Check on tart, find pastry is not puffing. Cook for a further 15 minutes.

Step 16: Check tart again. Find pastry is still not puffing, but there is a mild smokiness going on. Unsure whether the pastry really was too old, or the jam glaze hampered puffing, but decide it’s definitely time to take it out.

Nae bad! Ignore sticky black oozy bit.

Step 17: Husband arrives home conveniently just as you are slicing up the tart. Resign self to having to share.

Step 18: Serve, with a generous splodge of Greek yoghurt!

Not puffy, just tasty


Extended Mind

One of my favourite web comics ever, XKCD, did a strip called Extended Mind that I can really relate to.

Since I got an iPhone, I am always connected to the web in some shape or form. I’m at a PC all day, and when I get home I’m surrounded by technology – right now we’re running at two smartphones, two tablets, two kindles, two laptops, two desktops, and most recently, a Raspberry Pi computer that acts as media centre for our TV, and looks like this:

mmmm, Pi

In case you’re wondering, that’s Ben’s oystercard holder it’s sitting on top of. It’s that tiny.

Anyways, I’m digressing (and maybe also showing off a bit). The point is: technology, all the time, and more importantly, the internet.

Remember a time when a question popped into your head, and you couldn’t look up the answer immediately? Or you wanted to remember the name of that red-head chick who was in all the teen movies in the 80s (Molly Ringwald, by the by). I do, but only because I spent a month in the Himalayas with no internet access…

I love the internet, not just for the facts I want to check and the information I want to find, but for the awesome ideas I hadn’t considered, the ones that pop up in somebody else’s Pinterest, or that you wind up at after a couple of hours of following the links from your favourite blogs.

I’ve already told you about one experiment in enacting advice and tutorials from the internet this week. These are the other tips I’ve been trying out:

Creating a DIY fly trap

This trick is really effective. I’d post a picture of my DIY trap, but it is not as blog-beautiful as this one! Possibly because it’s made out of brown tape, a torn up bank statement, and a bright orange gloopy mix of mandarins, curry sauce and red jelly. But hey, the flies go nuts for that shit!

Making fettucine out of zucchini

I have no food in the house. I didn’t want to have pasta two nights in a row, but all I had in the fridge was a zucchini. I’d read before that you can replace pasta in dishes with strips of zucchini. So I picked up my vegetable peeler, boiled some water, cooked it for exactly a minute as suggested, and voila!

A soggy-looking lump of boiled zucchini. (Again, too ugly to bother photographing for the blog. Also, messy kitchen syndrome).

It tasted pretty good (although that may have been the aubergine pesto), but it definitely needed less water. Perhaps next time I will follow the suggestions to fry it, or wring it out in some kitchen towel. Or maybe I’ll just use real pasta.

More importantly, I’m still hungry! Maybe it’s time to give this a whirl…


Chalk it up to experience

obligatory overexposed art shot

Photo credit: Sirisa Clark 2012

Do not adjust your visual apparatus. I have blue hair.

I’ve fantasised about having dip-dyed pink hair since I first saw the video for New by No Doubt, waaay back when in 1999 [sidebar: I also want the eye make up. How freaking hot is Gwen Stefani? She is high on my girl crush list].

So I got really excited when I found this tutorial on Oh So Pretty The Diaries. But being the big ol’ wuss that I am, I am too scared to bleach my hair. Also, it would take a whole bucketful of bleach.

And then, joy of joys, I discovered they also had this tutorial, to basically temporarily colour in your hair with chalk! You can buy special little pots of coloured chalk for your hair, but more than one tutorial I found suggested using regular pastels.

So I took myself off to the college shop at lunchtime (working in an art college can be super-handy) and bought myself two sticks of pastel: one cobalt blue and one hot pink. I couldn’t wait to try it out, to the point that I actually ended up colouring in my colleague Jess’s hair in the afternoon. When I got home I set to work, colouring in random hunks of hair.

Here is what I discovered:

1) This shit works much better on fair hair. Jess’s was perfect in fact: long, golden brown beachy waves that showed up the streaks of colour amazingly.

2) This look is very subtle on dark hair. Like, Ben-talked-to-me-for-fully-five-minutes-before-noticing subtle, and he may have been helped by some full force ‘I’ve done something different’ significant looks.

3) Once he noticed, he loved it.

4) Hot pink comes up deep purple on dark hair. Boo hiss.

5) This gives your hair a very dry, matted texture. This may seem obvious to the point of idiocy to you (um, you put chalk in your hair. You were expecting a VO5 Hot Oil moment?), but I don’t tend to style my hair very much (I refer you to the wussage above) and was a bit surprised by the instant change in texture.

6) The surprise wasn’t necessarily bad. This is essentially a grunge kind of look, and the matted texture suited that. I think the next time I do this, I will play up to the grungey look, and use the added texture to style my hair.

7) I am now blue all over. My hands are blue, my bathroom is blue, my chest and shoulders are blue. I even have blue eyelids (I had a lot of excess chalk on my fingers… thought it might make good eyeshadow…). This stuff does not wash off easily.

So, that my friends, was my experiment in hair-chalking. I think I will be trying it again, and at 80p a stick, I will be testing out some more colours to see what works best on dark hair. And maybe one day soon, I will pluck up the courage to do some permanent dying.