Lavender: Uses Beyond Scent (+ Mild Rant)


photo of white pink and yellow ceramic mug and saucer

Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

So because I have a love of herbs and herbal flowers, specifically tea flowers, imagine my surprise seeing lavender used in Tea. But not just any lavender, there are specific types of lavenders out there. I’ve specifically seen English Lavender and the dwarf variety and French Lavender used to make tea which is then also used in biscuits and yoghurt. Biscuits such as Macaroons. Seriously go check it out. Lavender Macaroons. They look amazing!

My mind was blown the first time and I discovered it a few years ago. It’s not anything new by any means. But it did get me thinking.

With the increase of misinformation and misinformed flower identification and an increase in false “Health Properties” claims, how do you really know if it’s safe? One thing that troubles me is when people buy dried lavender aimed at use in sachets for moth repelant as an all natural scented bag for pest problems. There are pesticides or preservatives on them. And often there something coated on it when it says they aren’t. This is a problem when people buy cheap lavender refills rather than tea grade to save a few bucks.

If you plan to use ANY dried flower, make sure it’s cooking grade or comes from a tea store. It’s no secret that flower nurseries and big stores like Bunnings often mislabel plants and you don’t always have the right breed when you buy it. You’re best off doing loads of research and get solid information firsthand from reputable sources and then growing the correct species yourself. Lavender doesn’t take long and a simple well looked after large pot plant lavender can provide quite a bountiful harvest of flowers.

With these thoughts in mind it keeps reminding me of the time I got the wrong plant because of mislabelling. I had a moment of great frustration with buying Aloe vera. I waited for it to bloom because I was suspicious of it’s breed. Good thing I did because I bought it under the impression that it was safe to eat. I did an incredible amount of research and the one Bunnings was selling as edible it was in fact, topical only and mislabelled, encouraging ingestible uses.

Not an uncommon occurrence. Same happens with their flowers. They also don’t check or control cross pollination housing everything in the one area and occasionally end up selling hybrid plants without labelling it’s a hybrid. Unfortunately like some dog breeds, you only work out it’s been crossed with something else when it reaches maturity.

So I started buying my plants from a reputatble nursery in Queensland. A whole other state away from mine if you’re wondering. The shipping is VERY fast and they arrive safe and sound. I give the boxes to my worms and every plant I have bought from them never dies when I plant them. A HUGE deal because everything I buy from Bunnings no matter how hard I try, it dies or dies of shock easily. I’ve tried every suggestion but it’s hit or miss. Herb Cottage, the site I buy from, I never have this issue. The plants are that healthy and strong.

I bought most of my plants for them recently and unlike other sights, Herb Cottage includes cullinary use information as well as historical uses if they have it and if it’s accurate. I have yet to see them sell English Lavender but I did find a packet of seeds to grow from. Just been waiting for the right time to sow them. I want to try homemade lavender tea one day but not without more research. There are not just a lot of species, but I’m kind of horrified that big chain stores are selling salvia plants as Lavender. I must admit at first glance the mistake would be easy to make especially to a novice gardener but mislabelling can be so dangerous. Especially with an increased interest in natural homemade food and herbal teas with a “Do it yourself” attitude. It reminds me of that poor girl who thought she had an aloe vera leaf but it was agave and she was rushed to hospital.

All rambling aside, Lavender is one of my top favourtie flowers for uses other than scent. One such thing I like is brewing a tea like consistency as a hair rinse just to simply scent my hair. Not for any make shift hair treatment, just for the colour and the smell. It’s lovely. I also love them in bath bombs and soaps or floating loose in the bath. I love the light purple tinting. It’s just nice and fun.

But I want to know so much more about lavender tea. One such recipe that has caught my eye is Lavender Lemonade. It looks divine!

As I research it more and get more into some home photography I might revisit this post with a follow up one day.

 

 

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Noteshelf 2 Recap


A while ago now on my other blog, I briefly reviewed Noteshelf 2. After the most recent updates I thought it was time to revisit Noteshelf.

I have been exploring multiple note taking apps and falling in love with GoodNotes the more I explore but, I never thought I would find anything as good. Noteshelf has not only caught up but may just steal the show entirely!

For the longest time Notability, GoodNotes and Note Plus were the best around. GoodNotes being the front runner for me with the most features that were useful for what I needed to write about and for having a more natural writing experience. But the NoteShelf team have clearly been listening to their community and working hard and consistently to provide the best note taking app on the market.

I absolutely love it! I love the pen choices, paper choices and how many extra’s you can download so you can have the most unique journal or notebook you want all within reach. I still miss features such as GIF’s like I can use in other apps like Notability. I am not sure if GoodNotes does but I think it does. I am also thrilled at being able to use my own art as a cover because I really prefer to decorate my books myself even if it’s digital.

Anyway here is my quick handwritten review below showcasing my messy handwriting that was converted to text!

Haier Washing Machine First Experience


I got my first  Hair 8.5kg Front Loader Washing Machine and it is so damned quiet! Wow! It was also quite cheap on sale for $478 where as elsewhere was selling it for $606 and for once I had the cash to get a new machine.

I keep checking it. Even on the high speed spin, it just sounds like a small spaceship. This is my first front loader so there are some things to get used to and I already like it more than a top loader.

Currently I am using laundry powder from SimplyClean.com.au because the stuff is fabulous and has saved me literally hundreds in cleaning products. I buy the bulk container and don’t have to buy washing powder for several months. My stuff definitely comes out whiter and cleaner and only occassionally I have to use more than recommended in a top loader. It doesn’t foam up ridiculous either which is great because it’s also Front Loader friendly and uses much less than the top loader.

Another product I like comes from Bygum and I like all of their laundry powders. Both the ones from Bygum and SimplyClean use a very small amount. I think it’s no more than 30-60 millilitres or so. Maybe even less. It’s very effective and concentrated and ACTUALLY works however I can’t remember if it’s front loader friendly or not.

Anyway, I have noticed a lot of key differences. This machine doesn’t overballance, it’s fast and comes with a 15 minute wash and adjustable legs to make it level on uneven surfaces (which is a necessity in my home). A 15 minute cycle is a necessity for work shirts or pillowcases with spills, which seems to happen frequently. And again it is so quiet! It comes with a delay which is good for me because sometimes I have to go out and I’d like it to start when I’m home or almost home. It’s also nice that you can turn off the beeps and end cycle alarm because I could put in a load the night before, have it start in the morning and never heard a thing and just pop it in the dryer when I wake up.

So far it’s very easy to use much like my old one and I have noticed that it’s cold tap only but heats water up to 90 degrees Celsius. Which is very new to me. This means I’m not using the hot water from the hot water tank which was an issue before. Some items I needed hot water for whatever reason and two loads later no one can shower for a few hours because our tank sucked and our machine was NOT water efficient. This isn’t an issue with the Haier machine I bought and I am thrilled because I tend to use a lot of warm cycles.

I am still trying out it’s features and different loads sizes but I am so far really pleased with what looks to be a water saving feature. I will elaborate more in case it’s actually not functioning right, though I think I have the “new purchase jitters” so it’s wait and see.

[UPDATE] It is indeed a water saving feature. The machine measures out the load and uses an appropriate amount of water. It’s saving me so much on water consumption yet the clothing is clean and crisp. It freaked me out how little water it uses actually. I am so much more used to wasteful machines that I was worried something was wrong.

The barrel size is nice and I LOVE that I can choose the spin speed! My old machine though it served us well, it was TOO big and to wash one item was too much of a waste of water and power. And talk about loud! Towards the end it thumped all the time despite sitting level and it only seemed to have one speed. Delicate and handwash cycle was also far to rough on my old machine. I said to get it checked out but that’s easier said than done and in the end it was a matter of “use it until it breaks” type of situation.

With the Haier washing machine, the gentle cycle is not only gentle but you can choose a lower speed for spin making as gentle as possible though you’d still probably want a laundry/bra bag for certain items to stop them catching on other things.

A couple of other features I like is the jeans setting. Denim was a nightmare for me because hubs has thick denim work pants for all occasions though these days it’s for yard work and if either one of us wanted to wash jeans, his or mine the thumping could be heard from across the street. Not quite as impressive as it sounds because sound travels and echos quite easily but it’s still pretty bad you can hear it across the road. My neighbours have sung out to me like, your machine is going nuts better check it. Not an issue at all with the Haier.

The one thing I have noticed is no bleach dispense not that I use bleach all that often and I tend to soak and rinse my bleached items before I then wash them. I am allergic to bleach so I have to sometimes wash twice after bleaching to get it all out, and I only use it if I absolutely have to. But for other people I wash once and I used to like to use the bleach dispenser in my old machine. So that’s something I will likely have to look into because I know if I don’t then suddenly I’ll have to use it for some reason.

Backpedalling for a moment to earlier when I mentioned water usage, one thing that weirded me out  immediately was no “how much water/Load size” option. On my old machine like I said, wasted water. Low was like about 20 to 40 litres of water. For one pillowcase or blanket, that’s a joke! So you had to wait for a “small” load to build up which could take a ridiculous amount of time or you end up hand washing. In the end, I hand washed a LOT of items and felt like having a washing machine was pointless. My new machine senses the weight and distributes water accordingly. It’s enough, it’s efficient and it’s clean. Everything I need in a washing machine.

Plus I love selecting my own temperature. I mean I really love it. I frequently need to use lukewarm to hot warm. It goes up to 90 degrees which is plenty hot enough for my needs. I am nervous with towels though after the rough few months I’ve had with my old machine. I am most likely going to use the Hygiene function because towels get super gross in my house because there’s a humidity issue I can’t control. So it only takes a short amount of time before they need washing. I hope to one day own a decent dehumidifier to alleviate the problem.

[UPDATE] Washed towels in it. Amazing! I am wary of how many to put in but it did a fantastic job. They were fluffy without softener and smelled great. In my old machine it was very hard to clean the machine and filter so towels started to always smell and I started hand washing towels. No really.

In saying that, I appreciate that it has a programmable “Extra Rinse” feature. Something I have sometimes needed for towels. I tell people not to leave towels on the floor because my female Pomeranian uses it as a toilet. Which honestly I would prefer she do on a towel than carpet. Can’t exactly throw the carpet in there like you can a towel, and by the time it’s noticed it’s set in deep which is how we ended with with a specific “floor towel only” that I wash often. I also use said towel for things like mud prints at the door since it rains a lot where I live, except for this year it’s been quite dry. But the point is, I can get a deeper clean on heavily soiled items.

This machine also has an intense mode which I found quite useful so you can set it to intense and extra rinse. Something that wasn’t possible to do with my old machine. Instead I had to wash twice or hand wash in a huge bucket or the sink and then wash in the machine which was quite time consuming and often a waste of water.

I am pretty happy so far. I have had a Haier dryer before. One thing I love about their products is how slim they seem to be. They save a lot on space. My laundry was quite cramped before and now I have a lot more space without sacrificing clothing space inside the machines. The only reason I don’t have a Haier dryer any more was because a few years ago we had a storm and house damage and the dryer got damaged as a result of the storm and the workmen putting their tools inside of it didn’t exactly help things =_=

Oh well, what’s past is past. Point is we had that thing for what seemed like forever.

So far I love my new washing machine and the only bad reviews I saw were pretty dumb to be honest. They were along the lines of:

“You can’t pause it and add more.” of course not, it’s full of water.

“What do I do if I forget an item, I don’t want to wait for another load.” Really? Why not use the 15 minute function? What is waiting 15 minutes on a fresh low water usage cycle?

“I can’t open it when it’s on.” Mmmm yeah because it would spill everywhere and damage the machine… seriously, think about it…

These all seem to be common complaints. Really, think about it before you complain. It’s not fair to low rate an item because you didn’t think it through and use common sense.

[UPDATE] Unlike other brands, you can actually pause, open the door and add more clothing. The water is so efficient and low that it’s possible with this washing machine.

I have ALWAYS wanted a front loading washing machine. One of the main reasons being, my mother always used an enormous top loader to wash blankets in and queen sized doona’s but I am only 5ft tall. I can’t reach the bottom. It’s a ridiculous sized machine and if I did reach the bottom, it wasn’t without pain and I was too frightened to use a little step in case I slipped off. Plus front loaders are so much smaller yet still roomy. I hated having so much space taken up by that tank of a machine. The Haier front loader has given me so much room, I can not get over it!

I am in love with it. It’s the best purchase I’ve made all year! Great price and great performance!

 

Upcoming Post Alert


My next post will be about my refreshed love of Corel Painter. I’ve been a long time user now. I started out with Essentials. I think it was Corel Painter Essentials 3 actually. I have been doing digital painting since I was 15 so I’ve used many demos and trials and bought a lot of  software in that time and one program I frequently enjoy or go back to after long breaks is Corel Painter. This year while it was on sale, I managed to upgrade to the 2018 version and I am enjoying it a lot more than the 2015 version.

So in my next post, I will have some screenshots, maybe even gifs of something things or features I love as well as ramble on about a few features I am grateful to see in the most recent version.

TVPaint Animated Avatar Workflow


As more people have started to notice my work, I have started to recieve more questions about why I like/prefer TVPaint over other applications or freeware such as OpenToonz.

Yes I could achieve the exact same results in Toon Boom Harmony, Animate CC, OpenToonz, Pencil2D and Krita but the simplest answer is simply this:

TVPaint is what I feel most comfortable with. It’s natural, intuitive and once you learn the tools it’s very easy. I love frame by frame animation. I’m not a big fan of creating vector animation myself. I like seeing what others make but I don’t like to create it.

For anyone that has followed me long enough, I am sure you can see a big difference in feeling and motion when I do raster based animations such as this. It has more life and warmth to it while my vector animation is stale and tends to stagnate.

Allyce Large

After learning a few handy hotkeys and adding them to my tablet express keys, working in TVPaint is very fast. This simple 120 frame animation did not take up a whole lot of my time. And yet, if I were to make it in Harmony or Animate CC I would still be working on it. Because I tend to find that vector animation involves at least 90% problem solving rather than working.

I also dislike using nodes to create my effects. In Harmony this would take a complicated node setup. In TVPaint however, it was merely cleverly placed layers set to Add and painted on with an airbrush. A second layer of Soft Overlay was added for extra colour.

I also love how simple it actually is to create particles in TVPaint. In Harmony, it is incredibly difficult and the nodes tend to get more and more complicated as you work. At least in OpenToonz, their nodes are much simpler to work with. But it’s still not as simple as TVPaint.

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I love that I can colour my timeline in anyway I see fit and adding extra keys is extremely simple. Harmony and classic Flash were often quite irritating for me to work with. I just wanted something simple yet powerful and I have that with TVPaint.

Projects can be simple or complicated but the workflow is for me the most important part. I don’t having to stop several times to look up the manual and troubleshoot. And that’s ultimately what happens when you animate with Vector and Bone animation software. I was misguided into using vector software in the beginning. I quickly learned my lesson though. I prefer applications like TVPaint, Krita, Clip Paint Studio or OpenToonz where you can just dive in and start animating. It’s the best way to learn.

Most of the tools are intuitive. TVPaint has a few quirky features but with enough time and practise it becomes something you end up loving. For me, the way TVPaint handles masking is one of it’s greatest features. If you’re clever, it can help you create incredible effects or lighting.

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In the above I have a little gif I made for a friend on DA. It’s his character Angie. His website is Prevelant Arts. Below is one of the first Gif drafts where I forgot to animate the shadow with the hand. I wasn’t sure about adding shadow on the hand at this point or any at all since it would have made the gif to large to post on other sites.

Angie 1

I once tried to make something this simple in Harmony. It took me a week and it still didn’t work the way I wanted. I created this gif twice. I had to start over. It took me 2hrs with two clever uses of masking to complete. I sent the adjusted version off and I was quite pleased with the smooth workflow. All I had to do was draw, paint and review.

Short, sweet and simple.

But trying to do this in Harmony was a nightmare and a half. A few reasons being:

  1. Nodes- It becomes to complicated just to get a layer effect
  2. You need nodes to use or create masking
  3. Lack of help and information on masking in updated software
  4. You only have filters for blur. No airbrush tool, no blur tool. So if you want an airbrushed effect you MUST use a combination of nodes and masking. If you can’t do it, then you have a very messy animation/art.

After using Harmony and Animate Pro 3 for a few years I ended up with a passionate dislike for nodes. I can see how they could be helpful. OpenToonz has a simpler way to use them but with a lack of information and an inactive community, it’s a very difficult thing to learn even just by clicking stuff to see what happens.

TVPaint has a surprisingly active community. They’re also quite friendly. There’s also a lot of tutorials on the official forum already along with videos on Vimeo and Youtube. I have found Vimeo to be the best source of information for animation and TVPaint.

Too me, good animation software allows you to jump right in and start creating with little need to use the manual or tutorials. You should be able to easily use the pen tool, eraser, layers easily.

This was simply not the case for me and multiple vector programs. I tried many trials/demos, I bought two vector programs because they seemed fun and I learned a lot of things and gained a lot of technical skills. And after all of that, I still prefer and highly recommend using TVPaint.

For me, vector is a hindrance to my creativity and workflow. TVPaint has been very freeing for me creatively speaking. Using it to animate with these days is comforting. I have wanted it for so long and I am so grateful to have finally bought a copy. I used the demo and kept my knowledge of it in hopes of owning it. It was approximately a ten year wait. Lots of saving, but worth every dollar.

If you are serious and actually have the money to spend on it, do it. If you’re not sure, stick to freeware. Animation is not for everyone and unfortunately some artists don’t realise they don’t enjoy it until after they’ve learned how to do it. So I’ve now had to change my advice to, use freeware first then try TVPaint.

Upcoming post TVPaint


I’ve been wanting to make this post for a while and now I feel like I have enough examples to put in my post. In a few days I will be posting about my current workflow and experiences in TVPaint and again professing my love for it.

Blender Cycles And My Troubles


In the past I was never truly able to use it. With the exception of very basic scenes. The worst part about cycles is how slow it is to render something high quality.

This was why I started to get into external rendering. I tried all the freeware of course. I even tried trials and demos of paid software. I liked Keyshot the most. I was told to try VRay but when I saw the price, I avoided it completely.

In the end I never bought Keyshot because well, it’s out of my price range and at the time, Blackmagic Fusion didn’t have as many tutorials as it does now. And now that I’ve discovered NATRON (free) I have a lot more options for compositing and rendering.

However last year I got a new PC and it made the biggest impact on my Blender Cycles renders. Of course I can’t render any of my animations but hey, at least I can render my art now to the level I like. So here’s a few cycles renders I’ve done recently.

The last picture is a closeup of the toys. As you can see the first few are a bit noisy with some fireflies. The last three are clean and smooth as I upped resolution. It took quite some time to render. This makes me look forward to Blender EEVEE even more!

I like using cycles for toon related scenery but the render time takes so long! Currently I am researching the current freeware and opensource external rendering engines to see what I can do until the new version of Blender comes out.