Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greys, the returning

So I had another go at dyeing some greys. It was OK, but not fabulous. A lot of them are more mauve or some other colour rather than really grey. If I want to do this grey quilt (and I'm losing enthusiasm, I tend to go off ideas within a couple of days if I can't do them RIGHT NOW) I will have to go to the store boughts. Anyway this is the second lot.

It was starting to rain when I took this picture a couple of days ago and it hasn't stopped since! How fabulous is that, after such a hot and dry summer. We were worried about some big trees but this should set them up for a while longer. If it clears up tomorrow I should get out and pull some weeds while the ground is still soft ... or perhaps I could go to the bookfair. Or maybe the shops. I spent a happy couple of hours trying to find plain black work shoes this afternoon - no luck of course because I want them to be incredibly comfortable while looking like they're agonisingly painful ... not sure such shoes exist. I want them to look like this-
and feel like this - 

I may be out of luck. Still, it was nice just to potter around on my own out of the rain and try lots of things on and not buy them. I know it doesn't sound like everyone's idea of fun but I very much enjoyed myself. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Over summer the boys (and I) started watching the Great British Bake Off. If you don't know this show, it's a cooking reality competition of amateur bakers making traditional favourites. They have to do unexpected challenges from a recipe, and something else they've practised before hand ... the usual thing; someone loses every week and looks sad, until there is a winner at the end. But because it is British, and friendly, and polite, and nobody takes themselves too seriously, it was wonderful viewing for all of us.

We liked the diversions into the historical background of a Bath bun (who knew?) and solving the mystery of a tea cake. "That's just a Royale!" said number one son when he eventually figured out what they were making. Damn Australian child, they are properly called Mallowpuffs. So the show has made them both even more interested in baking. Not cooking - no interest in savouries or helping with dinner - just the cake and biscuits end. One day at the coast in January they decided to make ginger bread houses from scratch. I refused to help and went to the bedroom with a book - it took them FOUR HOURS but they made things that were recognisably gingerbread houses; icing and all.

Since then, number two son honed his Green's Moist Vanilla Cake skills and took second prize in the Canberra Show "Under 12 yrs Packet Cake ICING ONLY ON TOP" section. There were 11 entrants so that's not too bad at all for his first try. This wasn't the winner, just one of the (many) trial cakes.

One day after school he came home and asked if he could make a sponge cake with passionfruit icing. Um, OK. I have learned to go up to my sewing room and come down after a sensible length of time (it's often best not to watch what they do to my kitchen).

And last night after tea they decided to do "just a simple chocolate cake". Good to hear. If they are in a good mood they can make a whole cake with only eight to ten outbursts of bickering and a couple of thumps; which is far less fighting than during any other activity ...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Twenty shades of prison uniform

Last week I got the idea in my head I wanted to make a grey quilt. A pretty, soft, quilt with various shades of grey and some white. Restrained and elegant. So I bought some white fabric and tried to dye the colour that I saw in my head - black dye (not too much) with a bit of blue or a bit of red to try and get slightly different grey shades. I did twenty different colours ... and it looks like washday at maximum security.

None of them are really grey - there's blue and khaki and just grim, but not at all what I had in mind. Like with all my dyeing, nothing is ever wasted because I use the strangest things given enough time... so I have had another go with new fabric and they are batching at the moment. I used a LOT less dye in the second lot so they'll probably look like pale dirty sheets. From a prison.

Dad's gone home - it always seems like too short a holiday he has with us - but I waved him off on a train this time! How strange, no-one gets trains from Canberra. There's only one, to Sydney, with a grand total of three carriages. It felt quite retro standing on a train platform - and he even sprung an extra $14 and went first class. I'm not sure what it gets you ($14? probably not much) but he figured why not live a little...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coconut ice

I'm writing this from bed - nothing major just some sniffly cold but I'm under the duvet and getting some rest so it doesn't get any worse. I should be at work but they will just have to struggle on without me :) I bailed on the final baseball game (and end-of-season pizza) last night to come home and sit quietly, which is a sure sign there's something wrong. Knocking back pizza! Unheard of.

Anyway I took these photos yesterday when I was mobile so now I can show you the big pink crumb quilt - I've called it Coconut Ice because it is exactly that lolly pink and cream that school fete coconut ice always used to be. And probably still is. Just a traditional Bears Paw with random triangles for the claws.

It's busy, with not a lot of places for the eye to rest, but I like it. The quilting is dense, and I'm not sure about the patterns I did in the cream, but it's all an experiment! I used up lots more crumb blocks in the border but I still have MILLIONS in the drawer. Which is just fine, I have a heap more ideas. I'm toying with entering this one in the exhibition, it's lurid enough to make an impact from across the room.

My dad says to tell you that he did catch fish down the beach - in fact he caught five fish - but he had to throw them back because they were too small.  He was concerned that I had maligned his fish-catching abilities, which are unparallelled; it's just that Australian fish need to grow a bit, not like properly-sized New Zealand fish.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I'm a proper quilter now

Proof I'm a proper quilter? I bought a whole roll of batting.

Isn't it beautiful? 30 metres of batting, just waiting for quilt after quilt after quilt. Once you take shipping into account it's about a three quarters the price it would have cost me in the shops - so not a huge saving but worth doing - but the main thing is having it there ready to go whenever I am! My local quilt shop is closed Sundays and Mondays and public holidays, which is when I'm usually wanting to pin something up, so having the batting on hand will be lovely. And it's so pretty and pristine all in its lovely plastic wrapping ... full of potential.

Last night was Canberra's Skyfire - annual fireworks and concert - I asked the boys if they wanted to make an evening of it by the lake or just walk up the hill behind our house and they voted for the latter! Which is fine by me, I can have a glass of wine with dinner at home, no parking hassles and back in the house by 9.30 :) My husband ruled himself out to watch a rugby game with my Dad and a friend down from Sydney who is also staying the weekend. They were going to go to the game but realised tickets would cost $120 and putting the sports channel on Foxtel would cost $14.95 ... so now we have the sports channels for the month. Which means my Dad will be glued to the sofa for the remainder of his stay :) He does love sport. All sport.

Anyway it was a lovely night for a bushwalk in the dark - a beautiful full moon and when we got to our favourite vantage point Canberra's lights spread out in front of us. We watched three planes land and picked out some constellations before the fireworks started.

It is kind of hard to take good photos of fireworks from half a mile away on an iphone ... but they were very spectacular and we enjoyed it very much. These were just the little ones - they went about ten times higher with lots of twinkling and sparkling and oohs and aahs (from me, mostly).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A weekend away

It was a long weekend for Canberra Day so we packed up the kids and my Dad and went down the beach for three days. Dad hadn't seen our new place, so that was exciting - he liked it although despite numerous attempts couldn't actually catch a fish. He says we just need to keep trying all the various spots until we know what we're doing ... sounds like a long and boring journey to me, but I do like fresh fish, so if someone else is willing to experiment I will be mildly supportive.

The weather was mostly beautiful with some cloudy mornings - we went for a long walk round the headland one morning. It's a nature reserve, and quite pretty, but a bit further that we'd expected! A lot of whining and asking to be carried (and that was just me! boom boom).

This is looking back at our main surf beach. The headland is very sheltered, good for rock pools and might be fun to snorkel (if you could be bothered carrying the gear around). The water temperature was gorgeous and much warmer than four weeks ago. I'm not sure why, I think there was a cold current that swept up and now it's gone.

Even so, I wormed myself into my wetsuit for the first time in fifteen years! We bought them when we lived in Papua New Guinea and did a bit of scuba diving ... then fifteen years in a cupboard. They're only shorties not full length but needless to say I looked like a black and red overstuffed sausage. Not a good look,  but it absolutely did the trick in keeping me warm. I think it will extend the swimming season by a good few weeks at either end - and I will run the risk of horrifying the locals. Mind you it's no beauty contest at the best of times. A nice beach for fat families and wrinkly retirees.

These were the stones on the walk. I quite like the grey and brown working together - not normally two colours I would choose to use.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Shirtings finished!

Used to be shirts ... now it's a quilt! It quilted together in an absolute nanosecond compared to the pink one - I wanted it to stay lovely and soft so it's not heavily quilted at all.  The loose pattern was very quick to do. I'm really pleased with it because it's such a utility item; leftover clothing! Doesn't get more make do than that. And even though you would never pick the colours or the fabrics out in a quilt shop, they work together quite well.

Here is a close up of the quilting - I've used this pattern before, it's from my Mindful Meanderings book. It's a good pattern when there are squares that you can follow and keep it all regular. I wanted to bind it in shirting but there was no way - narrow strips just bent and wobbled all over the place - so it's a neutral from the stash.

This quilt is called "Budget Scones" which is a terribly unfunny public service in-joke from my husband's work. It is so unfunny it's not even worth explaining ... but it is sufficiently random for a quilt name.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sidetracked by more crumbs

I'm still going on those little pink squiggles, but I took a break and did some piecing using crumb blocks. Of which I still have hundreds - but luckily I still like them and I think I have a lot more scrappy crumb quilts in my future. I made this block with blue solids.

It's based on one of the Tula Pink blocks from my Christmas present book - I really just opened it at random and picked a block to make. I am liking this book more and more. I re-sized it to fit the crumb blocks, and then made the outer border thinner because it looked too blue. But the idea is the same...

I have made 16 blocks so now have to think about a border. Something pieced, because it's looking a bit bland and square at the moment. Thank you for your excellent comments on my towels post! It is so nice to get reassurance that my satisfaction in solving minor household management problems isn't some strange character defect. And such good tips - I will try to get everyone to pair socks together! My Dad is staying at the moment and he always mutters darkly about me stealing his socks (as if...) 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wittering about towels

In the finest blog tradition of "nothing too trivial" - today I would like to talk about towels. Specifically, clean towels and dirty towels and trucking one or the other up or down to the beach. You go for your last swim and have a shower and then leave; you can't leave your dirty towels there, or put them in the machine, or leave them on the clothesline for when you come back four weeks later. We don't have a dryer at the beach, but I wouldn't leave them in there either. So, you end up bringing them home to wash and taking them back again. And sheets are the same.

This is no trouble to do, it's just that you tend to start obsessing about where the linen is. Did we leave any there? Do we need to take bathmats back down? How many beach towels do we own anyway? Originally I was going to buy nice new towels for home and take the old ratty ones down the beach. But then I got advice from a friend who is very wise in the ways of the beach house (and much else); she said buy new for the beach and make them all the same colour that you don't have at home. Then you know that if you see that colour at any point [in the endless cycle of washing that is our lives], it needs to return to the coast and you can put it in your Beach Cupboard. (Another excellent point, I made a Beach Cupboard too).

So this is why I have a pile of lime green (chartreuse? viridian? malachite?) towels and hand towels and bathmats and face washers. They are all different colours because I have bought them on super special over the last few months and they are different brands from different shops ... but still lime green. And the system works extremely well. The only problem was a teetering pile in the Beach Cupboard, and then I'd try and jam them in a grocery bag without success and end up just piling them in the back of the car. So today I went to Spotlight and spent $6 on a very very ugly striped polyester doubleknit fabric, and made a big fat drawstring towel bag.

Polyester so it can be washed repeatedly, and knit so I didn't have to neaten the edges and it won't fray. I made a sheet bag as well. I am sorry for inflicting all these words on linen management on the internet, but I am really quite pleased with myself, and it will make my life easier. Simple pleasures...