Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back down the beach

It was a long weekend here so we headed off down the beach for a few days. Canberra has a strange public holiday called Family and Community Day (actually everyone calls it "F 'n' C Day" hahahaha) the Monday before the Australia-wide Labour Day - so two long weekends in a row. Not to be sneezed at, and we went down to get some sea air.

The weather was astonishingly good. No-one packed their swimmers because it is September and cold but we all went in one way or another. I did have a pair of togs down there and a wetsuit, so I was fine - I didn't enquire what number two son wore under his wetsuit, but he was happy - and number one son refused to admit he was going to swim until the point when he got up to his armpits in ocean.

Just lovely. We spent a boring couple of hours picking out a dishwasher - to be delivered next week - and several boring half hours coercing the children into doing the dishes by hand. But other than that the little house is still great. And the beach is still beautiful.

I am going to take down my spare sewing machine because the novelty of sitting around reading and playing computer games is slightly starting to wear off - I need something a bit more substantial to do. I don't know how I'll go having two sewing set ups - it might be disastrous - but honestly I have so much STUFF I think I can easily put two sewing rooms together without noticing anything missing. I was quite surprised at the cupboard full of clothes I already have down there without realising; it's not exactly the fashionable end of my wardrobe but perfect for the coast.

Strangely, the beach house has a pretty good zoo about ten minutes down the road. We've got season passes, which works really well - I get bored and tired after about an hour or so, so we can do the zoo in small bits. They have lions and tigers and snow leopards which I love, and gibbons and monkeys, plus the usual favourites like meerkats. And deer to feed, and zebras, and those tiny little pygmy marmosets that look like tree rats. And a baby giraffe ... so cute.

We came back to Canberra to a limping cat so my husband has taken her to the vet ... hopefully just a torn nail or something but she was very reluctant to put any weight on it, poor little thing. We felt like very bad pet owners ... although the rabbits are fine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Here is the cream "low-volume" one - I probably shouldn't have tried to take a photo with the sun behind it. It looks a bit transparent (it's not really). Simple squares, little and big. I called it "Old Man's Corgi".

Quilted in straight lines. I like it overall, it's quite dainty and soft. I even found a cream print to put on the back, so it matches all through (unusually).

It's the last week of term here so the boys are a bit tired and looking forward to a break. I was meant to be travelling again but it's been postponed a few weeks - which is actually a bit of a relief! It feels like I have a bit of unexpected spare time, both at work and at home; although I'm sure I'll manage to twiddle it away in my usual fashion. I spent three hours in furniture shops this afternoon thinking about rugs, cushions, chairs and possibly a wood burning stove ... didn't buy anything and just about had homeware meltdown! Where everything looks the same and your eyes go a bit crossed.

The cat likes the new quilt, bless her furry little paws.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Another Sunday, another trig point

Off we trotted on another walk today - in a different part of Canberra with a very different view - but the same kind of trig point. It was hot! Now that spring has kicked in you notice the walks that don't have much shade. Number two was getting a bit fed up with the hill, which is why he has on grumpy face in this photo.

Canberrans do love to dam a random stream and put in an artificial body of water. These two photos are standing in exactly the same spot on the dam wall - one to the north and one to the south. On one side is the inevitable consequence of suburban town planning by committee (fairly hideous, but at least there's a lot of open space, and a lake) and the other side is just an ordinary piece of scrappy countryside.

Both quite different.

Other than that, I am sewing away on a low-volume quilt - which is whites and neutrals and light soft colours. Low-volume is very trendy, but cream-coloured quilts are terribly old-fashioned. I suspect I have accidentally made the latter rather than the former. I'll put a photo up when I'm done and let the internet decide.

I tried to stuff some leftovers into my scrap bucket, and couldn't because it was too full, so I spent a very happy couple of hours making lots and lots of crumb blocks. I didn't make much of a difference to the bucket, but a bit ...  I can get it back in the bookcase now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spring weekend

My husband continued his birthday fiesta of not-working by flying up to Brisbane for a long weekend to catch up with family and go to his cousins' 40th birthday party.  He had a great time, and the boys and I had a quiet couple of days at home. There were a few friends over (theirs, not mine) and on Sunday we went to Floriade. Spring in Canberra! Hayfever, wind and Floriade.

We parked on the south side of the lake and walked over to avoid the crowds. A good decision, because there were MASSES of people there. We wandered around and looked at the flowers, but could not be bothered with the queues for the ferris wheel, so we'll go back a bit later on during the school holidays when it's quieter. Fairy floss was a consolation prize.

And when the pansies have died back and the daisies take their place. And when the tulips are out.

One walk was full of giant freaky inflatable white flowers. Up in the trees and looming out of the bushes. With spiky bits and fangy bits. Number two son thought they were a bit strange and gloomy but I really liked them.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


We don't do things quickly around here. We like to ponder our house-related decisions .... procrastinate? Maybe. I don't like to spend money and my husband tends to put things off - a poor combination when it comes to any form of household renovation or maintenance. When we moved into this house eight years ago, it had a stupid 70s fireplace backing onto the picture window in the lounge room. This isn't a picture of the actual one - just one from the internet - but it gives you an idea of the type. Completely useless for anything except smoking up the room - we used it a few times but it gave out no heat at all and about choked everyone to death.

So after pondering its uselessness for four years, we had it removed. We did think about keeping the flue and putting a modern burner in but it was too close to the window - apparently legal in the 1970s but not at all now. It all came out - including the brick hearth - leaving a great big gap in the carpet and a square of chipped and flaking bricks in the lounge room floor. Here's the before shot - we normally have the gap covered with a rug. Well, half of it covered, we never did find a rug big enough.

We needed new flooring - but what? I like carpet in general, but this is in our living room and dining room, where we eat all our meals (we don't have a formal dining room and then somewhere else where we actually eat most of our food, I've never understood that). So the carpet in the dining room was deeply trashed, and I really didn't want to put more down. Even with the boys a bit older there are still spills ... and a couple of red wine lunches and it would look like crap.

We thought about a hard floor, but I'm not a fan. I don't like tiles or wood - noisy, unforgiving if you drop something, and cold. If we had a 19th century villa with fabbo original boards then I would probably use them, but putting wood down on top of a 1970s concrete slab? Nup. So I looked at rubber, and linoleum, and vinyl, and cork ... and no-one in Canberra really does them, and I wasn't sure I'd like the look anyway. And around we went for FOUR YEARS unable to make a decision.

And then we bought the beach house, which has vinyl loose-lay planking that looks like wood. Perfect for a beach house, but after a year in it, we realised it is perfect for anywhere. It is wonderful stuff - hard wearing, soft underfoot, easy to clean and quiet. So we bit the bullet and ordered it in for the lounge and dining room at home.

We ripped up the old carpet and tack strips ourselves - a bit backbreaking because they had nailed the tack strips to the slab, but very satisfying. The old carpet was DISGUSTING!!!! And the layers of sand on the underlay? What the hell? I was very happy to see that get picked up for the tip. Here is the naked concrete floor shot - the slab was a bit beaten up. It had had a felt underlay glued to it at one point, and there were patches of sticky hairy stuff. Nasty.

But the guy who laid the floor was completely unfazed by it all - scraped it off, filled the bricks with concrete, put a scree over the top; and when it was dry came back and put the vinyl down in a morning. We got the expensive stuff which he said was much easier to put down because it's thick and cut square. Because we have so many feature brick walls, and a wooden ceiling, we went with a very light wood - limed, or greyed-out.

And it is awesome! I know it's bogan flooring to have vinyl in the living room but it looks great, it feels lovely and (hopefully) will be resilient and hard wearing. I bought some new cushions but, like all new things, it makes the rest of the place look shabby. Next decision is a new sofa ... another eight years?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Much more me

After the pointless quilt I made another one. I made it quickly, and technically quite poorly, and I put together whatever I felt like and stopped when I thought it was done.

And of course I like it heaps better. It is much more me, in colour and design and eye-ball burning luridness. Colours that don't really go so well, and lots of scrap blocks. And pink chevrons! Yellow lemons! Yay! Making this quilt made me happy. I quilted it all over in a random kind of design thing. Movement and curves, not lines.

And it also passed the not-very-rigorous boy and cat test.

In case you're wondering why this photo seems a bit close up, we are currently living in very close quarters crammed into our family room - off the kitchen - while we re-do the floors in the living and dining rooms. We had to move all the furniture out because they need to do a new thin concrete layer on the slab; so we stuffed ourselves into the wee family room ... apart from the sofa, which wouldn't fit. So we put it outside with the TV table and the rabbits. What could possibly go wrong?

Here we are having some quality evening family time. It's actually quite cosy, but almost impossible to keep clean and we keep losing things as they get piled on top of other things. More space is much easier to live in.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Every year I'm surprised

One week it's winter, and the next it's spring! From cold and bleak to balmy and blossom in what seems like a few hours, but it's probably a few days. It happens every year and every year I'm surprised. The blossoms are beautiful.

And the wattle is out.

Yesterday's walk was along the Murrimbidgee River - not very spectacular countryside but nice to be out in the fresh air.

What is it with boys and sticks?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


So, I've been thinking about matchstick quilting a bit lately; I'm not sure if that's what you call it but dense machine quilting in parallel lines, only about a quarter-inch (or less) apart. There were a number of quilts that I pinned up at the exhibition quilted this way, and it looks good and gives an interesting texture. To me most of the winning quilts weren't that interesting - nice enough but we've seen it before - except for the one that got first in the wall quilt Homage to Rosalie Gascoigne by Meg Cowey. The photo doesn't do it justice, the solids and the colour choices gave the lines a clarity that draws you in and back. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. And of course the dense quilting was perfect for it.

Another quilt that captured my eye on the internet was this one - isn't it amazing? Great colours, and of course that straight line quilting again. So I gave it go, and did this thing.

Which is a big fat yawn from planet bland. It's deliberately askew - I consciously didn't try to make it straight because I knew I'd fail, but even if the execution was perfect it would still be a take it or leave it number. The straight line quilting isn't particularly difficult or time-consuming (although it might be if you wanted to do it properly), it's just BORING. And you end up with a boring quilt. The photo is terrible too - the camera really struggled to focus on it. It was probably too repulsed to focus.

The worst thing is that the density of the quilting makes it useless as a bed quilt! It doesn't drape, or bend or snuggle at all. So I called the stupid thing "Pointless" because that's what it is. Pointless. I quite like the pink and blue together, but that's it.

But, as with many of my pronouncements ("this quilt is useless!!!") I was proven wrong within about ten minutes by a boy and his cat, who think it is perfectly cosy. I will wash it a few times and see if it loosens up at all, and in the meantime it can see the winter out on the sofa.