Sunday, March 18, 2018

Still hot

I know I complain a lot about the weather, but it is another 30 degree and windy day, and I'm wondering if winter will ever be here? I know I own cardigans and tights and scarves but I haven't seen them in six months and I'm wondering if I'll ever need them again. In a rare moment of marital togetherness my husband and I took the dog for a walk this morning and I was dripping sweat, at 9 am, at a slow meander (the dog's legs are very short). I am over this heat...

Here is a photo of downtown Sydney from the Law Faculty building of the University of Sydney, where I went on Friday for the day for a conference. It was a long day but worth it to hear some seriously smart people talk about the other side (i.e. the non-pragmatic, non-political side) of something I spend a lot of time thinking about at the moment.  My husband texted me to see how it was going and I said I felt like a teletubby - which is something I usually say when I'm around thin fashionable people - except this time it was the mental rather than physical. I felt I had the intellectual wattage of Lala, or possibly Tinkywinky. Groups of people discussing complex topics in complete sentences, or even paragraphs, when I'd still be struggling with articulating a word or two. I did enjoy it, but I didn't say much.

'd never been to this university before, and it has some cute old bits. I never did find out why there was a boat there. The building I was in was super modern with far too much glass and grills (I prefer a real wall when I'm more than one storey up) but it did look very cool and had wonderful views. Sydney airport on the way home was having some kind of meltdown - every flight was delayed, I think it was air traffic control - but I made it home eventually ... my Dad had made the family fish from NZ for dinner. It is lovely to have him here, although we haven't seen much of him this weekend (stamp show....)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I've been sick

Nothing major, just a head cold, but it completely ruined my plans for a productive weekend. I had intended to use my first peaceful weekend at home for ages in doing useful things (and sewing, yes) but I started to feel sick Friday afternoon and spent Saturday and Sunday with a fever and dreadful aches and pains. Nothing serious, and started to come right on Sunday afternoon, but what a nuisance. Monday was a public holiday, which I spent packing to fly to Toowoomba on Monday afternoon for work (three hours in a propellor plane, dear god).

But Toowoomba is a lovely town, lots of gardens and parks, and the weather was delightful. I didn't see a great deal of it but took the photo because I liked the bit of public art. Love some reflective public art. Home again on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in the airport half an hour before my dad who is over from New Zealand for a visit! Lovely. I am not looking forward to getting in a plane again tomorrow morning but I will be home tomorrow night and this time I am going to have a proper weekend.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Girly weekend

I went down the beach last weekend just with a friend and it was delightful! I like being on my own but I also like company, especially company that is happy to swim and eat and nap and watch silly television and chat. The weather was just beautiful and we had lots of swims.

Weirdly the sea spat up a heap of sea foam on the Saturday afternoon. We don't usually get that down there. And this is why I love blogging, because it made me actually google sea foam, which I would never have done before, and I learnt something new. The sea was also an unusual green colour, so there might have been algae breakdown or possibly seaweed. It certainly did not stop us swimming.

I went for a short walk but the broken toe is still a bit sore if I spend more than about half an hour walking. I went for a swim in the pool at my work on Thursday which was lovely - it's only 25 metres so I'm not sure how much of a workout it is. The main problem is I then spend the afternoon feeling relaxed and snoozy. And that has been my exercise for the last few weeks, which isn't enough.

Pam that photo of the dog in the last post does have the same quilt in it - I took it from the back, so that's the edge of the brown backing fabric. I don't have quilts hanging randomly around the garden although, now you mention it, it might look pretty cool....

Sunday, March 4, 2018

How Many Michaels

A quilt! A finished quilt!!!! Chunky churn dashes with a weirdly purple sashing and poorly chosen red cornerstones. When scrappy goes wrong.

My two inch strip bags are much emptier now, which is good, but I don't think I class this as one of my proudest quilt-related achievements. It is quilted in big feathers, which might have been overkill because you can hardly see them.

The back is using up more uglies from the stash.

It is called How Many Michaels after a song from the Able Tasmans, a peculiar NZ band from the 80s and 90s. Their Come In Spinner album is one of my all time favourites ... but I'm not sure if that's because it's one of the world's great albums or because it reminds me of a certain time in my life. I can never be objective about music, it's always associated with other things. In the early 90s I was working at the Wellington Public Library which had a wonderful collection of CDs that I could borrow and tape onto cassette. Which was probably completely illegal looking back, but I could never have afforded to buy them. Not as an impoverished student ... the tapes have long gone but Spotify has it all now. I love Spotify.

I will leave you with a photo of the dog looking almost intelligent. Like there is a light flickering behind her eyes and sending some sparks through her brain. There's not.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Something new with solids

I absolutely didn't mean to start a new quilt - I have finished the quilting on the scrappy two, so I should be pinning up the lemoyne stars and the sixteen patch and quilting them... but I got distracted by this excellent quilt. Isn't it great? Simple shapes in solids, with a limited number of colours. I am not much of a one for patterns though, and I thought it would be better with some horizontals, and different shaped rectangles, and a different size, and different colours, so did some colouring in and some maths.

Then pulled some soft pastels from the shelves of solids, and I've been cutting and piecing ever since.  I originally had a soft lemon yellow in there, but pulled it out. The only time I've ever thought something was better with no yellow in it!

I don't know how well it will work - my colours might be too similar in value - but there's only one way to find out! And I don't have enough of any of those colours so I have to find other ones that are kind of similar; the joys of home dyeing. I can never re-create anything. It is fun to use the solids again though - I am full of ideas for the next one.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A weekend of two halves

Saturday was 35 degrees and airless; Sunday was 15 degrees and rainy. Saturday number one son had an all day board-game fiesta at a friend's house, Sunday number two son spent the day in a friend's rumpus room watching Parks and Recreation and trawling instagram. Saturday afternoon number two and I went to the swimming pool where I did lengths and he frolicked; Sunday afternoon number one and I went for a rainy driving lesson where he carefully went on the road for the first time! and I stayed very calm.... Saturday night I made brioche, and Sunday night I made bagels. Here are the brioche, I cut back on the eggs/fat/salt and they are not nearly as nice as they would have been otherwise. And yes, I do just put Saturday's dinner on top of the weekend papers that are still all over the table. Smear me in buttery crumbs and call me a slattern.

In between I quilted on the scrappy top and the purple scraps and solids top - nearly done them both now so just a matter of a bit more quilting, then some binding, and I will actually have a finished quilt! First one this year? Might be. I also had book club on Sunday afternoon - we read "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline which two of us really liked (including me), one of us didn't like and one of us hadn't quite read. Which is about the normal odds! I really enjoyed it; a good old-fashioned science fiction / adventure read by an author I'm not familiar with.

This was the star of book club - a new kitten. Not so much of a kitten any more, more of a teenager, but still very cute and very fluffy and adorably playful until the point where she found a comfortable lap and nestled in. Awwww......

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Adelaide and Perth

On Sunday afternoon I flew to Adelaide, for a day's work on Monday, then a flight to Perth, for a day's work on Tuesday, and back home Tuesday night. Different time zones, but I think I just stayed on Canberra time, which worked out fine. Except for going to bed at 8 on Monday night and waking up at 5 am on Tuesday morning, but honestly, when you're in a hotel room on your own, it's not a problem.

In Adelaide we were in the Old Chamber Room, which is the original parliamentary chamber, from 1855. It is very simple and not grand at all, compared to the Victorian one, although not quite as cute as the Tasmanian one. South Australia uses a new Parliament House (1889) which is much more ornate. When we arrived on Monday morning the paper announcing the dissolution of parliament before their upcoming election was pinned to the front door, so they couldn't be opened. It was an A4 sheet of photocopy paper; I would have expected something fancier.

Somehow we arrived in Perth before we left Adelaide, so I got a chance to have a slow hobble around the CBD while it was still light. It's my second 24 hour visit to Perth, and one day I am going to go back properly and have a look around! It feels like a very open, sunny city to me, with lots of space. It is apparently the most isolated city on earth, in terms of distance from everyone else, and it feels like it spreads out on the ground.

Everyone was very chilled and relaxed on a pleasant summer evening. I found the Margaret River Chocolate Company shop, which provided bribes for the family, and had dinner in a pub next to an open window.  It was a long two days - and I'd rather be sewing - but I can't really complain...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

From the wet to the dry

I've gone from soggy humid and damp in NZ to blisteringly hot and dry back in Canberra - it's that point in February where everything is completely desiccated and there is no point in doing anything except waiting it out. The hibiscus are wilting; although they perk up quite quickly if you put the hose on them.

The grass is yellow, the leaves have fallen off the roses, the trees are drooping and washing dries in the time it takes to do a second load. The photo below isn't my grass - we went round to friends' for a bbq lunch today - but it's the same colour. Because of my toes I am not able to do any exercise except swimming - so I took myself down to the local pool to do some lengths yesterday afternoon. It was beautiful. Nice and cool (it's an outdoor pool) and not many people there. I think everyone has given up on summer, and gone to the movies, where there is air-conditioning.

My flight from Sydney back to Canberra was delayed a few hours on Wednesday so instead of a civilised nine pm return it was nearer to midnight. And up early on Thursday for another parliamentary sitting day, then a day of public hearings on Friday, then a very welcome fish and chips by the lake on Friday night with friends before eleven hours sleep and starting to feel human again! I even did a little bit of machine quilting yesterday which made me very happy. I am not at all looking forward to hopping on a plane again in a couple of hours (a day in Adelaide, then a day in Perth) but it is part of the work at the moment, and I'm not really complaining. Perth is much further away from Canberra than NZ is, which just doesn't seem right to me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I'm in New Zealand

No post for a week because I have been in New Zealand to celebrate my cousin getting married! I booked this trip last year before I knew work would be so busy, so there is a bit of guilt at wandering off and leaving both home and work to their own devices for six days. Especially in only the second week of school! But I am having a LOVELY time.

I have hardly taken any decent photos of anything, so here is brother, sister and brother-in-law in the kitchen. Actually my iPhone ran out of storage soon after this photo was taken so you will have to take my word for it that the wedding party was lots of fun, and in a beautiful setting at their place in the countryside just outside Rotorua. I had wonderful chats with siblings and cousins and family friends that I hadn't seen for ages.

So that was on Saturday - I flew into Auckland last Thursday, spent two days with my little sister, then we all went down to Hamilton to have lunch with my older brother and sister and their families - including ALL the nieces and nephews! I haven't seen them altogether for a very long time, now they have jobs and studies and travel around the world. Then off to Rotorua for the party and a night in a slightly decrepit motel (but very handily located) before back to my Dad's for a couple of nights in Tauranga. He is looking after me extremely well and doing all the cooking! This is fish he caught himself and saved specially for me.

The only two things stopping me having fun are the weather - which is appalling, it has rained every single day - and my toes ... while I was packing on Wednesday night I dropped my ipad on my toes (straight down, like a guillotine) and it was excruciating. They swelled up black almost instantly and the pain just wouldn't go away so we spent four hours down in emergency and had xrays. Normally I wouldn't bother for toes but given I was going to fly the next day I wanted some medical professional to say I could! Which they did. Lots of strapping, lots of painkillers, and I've really been only able to walk properly today, which has scuppered my plans to do scenic strolls and a bit of light shopping.

Instead I've been cleaning out a few of Dad's cupboards, throwing out as much crap as he'll let me, and having lovely catch ups with relatives and friends here, including fellow quilters! There is nothing quite like spending time with a fellow enthusiast, particularly when they make absolutely beautiful quilts and are happy to answer all your "how did you do THAT?" questions in great detail. Magical.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The shock of paid employment

Talk about slamming into it! Last week was crazy busy with work and this week is shaping up much the same way. Those beach afternoons of swimmings, DVDs and beer are another life and it is totally back to the treadmill. Except not actually to the treadmill because I have been too busy to get to the gym at lunchtimes. The dog and I walked round the lake on the weekend which was lovely, but not really exercise.

I finished the scrap sixteen patch quilt top. I tried to colour wash the top - graduate the colours across- but it didn't really work because it was made of random scraps! So I've put all the browns together, and that's about it.

I told number one son to look like he was thinking something intelligent about the quilt. He had his first day of college today! The ACT system has them at a separate school for the last two years, where they do their major school leaving qualification (and university entrance ranking) as continual assessment over the two years. I think they put the fear of god into the newbies, which has my full approval. He was excited but a bit nervous when he got home.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Some bad sewing

I've been sewing up a storm but there's no point in taking photos because it is very boring scrappy sixteen patch blocks. Quite fun but not very exciting. Today was my first day back at work after five weeks of glorious holiday and it was a RUDE SHOCK. Not only did I have to concentrate all day, with no time for reading books or drinking beer, but everyone had saved up all their thoughts and concerns to share with me when I came back. Most unfair, I should be able to ease back into it. I am moving into a new team so most of the day was spent physically moving stuff into my new office (approximately ten metres to the south of my old office. It's not a big change). 

On the weekend I went and saw the Starstruck exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery which was fantastic! It is mostly stills from Australian movies, with some posters, some publicity photos and some casting albums from the early 20th century which were just fascinating. The nice thing about the NPG is that they give you really detailed explanations of each picture - who the person was, and the historical context. Which makes it much more interesting to me than trying just to stare at some random art and thinking about what it could possibly mean.

The best things for me were the half dozen costumes they had included. The one above is the "Miranda! Come back!" dress from Picnic at Hanging Rock, which is a landmark Australian movie that I have always disliked. But the frocks were great.

And how about cock in a frock on a rock? Who can forget Hugo Weaving prancing about in the desert in this number. I had a very close inspection and it is truly appallingly made. The trim is just sewn on in a wobbly zigzag, there is no fastening (it's tied into a knot at the waist) and it is damn nasty cheap polyester... it totally looks like something a bloke sewed in a moving bus. Unlike Nicole Kidman's Moulin Rouge red dress which was immaculate inside and out ... with a waist I could just about squeeze my upper arm into. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I went to the beach

Canberra has been crazy hot the last few days - high thirties every day - so I snuck myself off to the beach. I totally offered to take the boys but they would rather swelter with internet. Crazy kids. The coast was wonderful. Great waves, great weather and not nearly as busy as earlier in the month.

I spent hours in the water - the water temp is just wonderful at the moment. A bit fresh getting in but then delightful. I have always loved being in the sea - any water really but a surf beach is my favourite. I spend so much of my life heavy and overheated, and to be cool and weightless is like heaven. I love catching waves, even tiny waves, on my boogy board and bobbing around waiting for waves when there are none to catch. I think it's the same dopamine that makes me avoid poker machines and play much too much candy crush - an addictive personality. You wait for ages for a wave and then you get a really good one and it's fantastic so you keep going. And waiting. And then when you get a not so great one you keep going, because it's bound to get better .... there are worse things for addictive personalities to get hooked on.

Speaking of candy crush, after four years and 2938 levels I deleted the app on New Year's Day. All the freebies I'd built up, all those levels, gone forever. Of course I haven't missed it one bit, what a pointless time suck. I absolutely shudder to think how much time it has taken me to get through nearly three thousand levels, especially given I refused to spend any money on it, so it is just time. Crazy.

Our beach had a massive seaweed tide while I was down. This is way more than I've ever seen there before, and it was a bit off putting to wade through in the shallows, but it stopped at the breakers. The weed just spent a couple of days coming in and out with the tides and presumably it will all wash out, or rot away, as some stage. Our neighbour says it happens every now and again.

One afternoon I went for a drive to hunt up future retirement properties .... still a long way off but it's nice to dream, and look at the little roads and isolated beaches we might end up near. This is Bingie Point, in the National Park, and it's very beautiful but not a friendly local beach. There was a big swell and some happy surfers but it looked way too dangerous for me and my little board.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Still pottering about

I have cleaned out the freezer, re-arranged my sewing threads (more a pleasure than a chore, to be honest) and glued the chair back together. I clamped it and everything! Then I used duct tape on the laundry hose (the one that runs out to the garden, we are desperately fighting a losing battle to keep the plants alive) so basically super handy person. I have gone back into work but just to change my library books - I stopped to say hello to my work colleagues but tried not to do any work. It's very quiet.

I'm watching episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford which I picked up randomly from the sale bin before Christmas. It's great! Love a bit of BBC period drama ... especially when it's reasonably light and feelgood. I'm also watching Eureka, which is completely different but also light and feelgood. That might be my theme for January. I've never watched all the Star Wars movies so my husband and elder son sat me down and we worked our way through them all over the Christmas break so I'm ready to go and see Return of the Jedi ... should I want to do such a strange thing. I must be getting old because I find going to the movies quite loud and overwhelming, and I'd rather get a DVD. And it's cheaper...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Basic blocks

I have two quilt tops finished that I should pin and quilt ... but that is boring and difficult, so I'm making new things instead. The tops will get quilted one day, or not, as the case may be. I use Bonnie's scrap users system where once your piece of fabric gets below a certain length - about twelve inches for me - you cut it into various size strips and store the strips together. So you can then just open a bag of strips and make blocks when you need them. I love it, but I haven't been using the strips lately, so I'm on a mini-mission, and I'm enjoying basic blocks of scraps with white. I don't do much with white (booooooring) but for whatever reason it's appealing to me at the moment. Here are some basic sixteen patch blocks.

And lemoyne stars. My autocorrect changed that to "lemony stars" which would also be an awesome name.

We are all getting into the slow groove of summer in Canberra. I am still having a small organising frenzy and so far have saved us $115 a month - I have a great ambition to go into the bank next week and tackle the home loan! We have the laziest of all loans (i.e. whatever they gave us back in 1997 when we bought our first house) and I am quite sure we can do better.

I have been reading personal finance blogs which are kind of hilarious because they tend to show Extreme Frugality ("we paid off $180,000 in consumer debt in three years, here is the spreadsheet" kind of thing). I could never do Extreme anything, you need a certain type of personality. Which, frankly, is probably why these people were in such debt to start with. But we do spend a lot of money without much to show for it, so I think we can try harder this year. And to celebrate this resolution we are going out to dinner with friends tonight ....

Monday, January 15, 2018

My new header

I thought the blog could do with a bit of a refresh for the new year - and a slight change of name because it's not really about quilting so much! and more about me .... it's all about me. I did wonder whether naming your blog after yourself and putting a picture of yourself at the top is problematically narcissistic, but then I thought I was probably overthinking it all, and my readership is what you might call selective, so perhaps I could get over myself. Which I did.

I did the picture by running a selfie through one of the "art effects" websites, I think the header one is coloured pencils. Below are watercolour, oils, and charcoal, but I like the coloured pencils one best because it clearly shows the quilt on the bed, the mess in the open cupboard and the bookshelves. Which sums me up quite nicely.

I'm not back at work yet but I'm being more productive now I'm back at home. I'm re-visiting our ludicrous expense on broadband, pay tv, mobile phones and insurance - I am one of those lazy people that just keep with the same provider but it has gotten ridiculous - they have much better deals now. It is just so painful and time-consuming to compare and change! I have cleaned out the cupboards in the family room and will take a pile of kids toys and games to the op shop, and then it's time for the christmas decorations to come down. Boring but essential. I'd rather be at the beach. Book club on Sunday was fun - we read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August which we all thought was fantastic! A great premise, and really well written, and made us think. I'm going to hunt out more by that author.

Friday, January 12, 2018


Welcome to 2018 everybody - although we've been in it for nearly a couple of weeks now! As you might have guessed, I've been down the beach since Boxing Day, and it was glorious. Some wonderful summer weather (and some storms) and some visitors, and some very quiet days, and general fabulousness. The boys didn't want to go (no internet, no friends) but once we got there they were fairly polite. I let them do pretty much what they wanted, with only some small insistence on fresh air once a day, and they got into the groove OK in the end. I absolutely loved it, and swam every day, and went for walks, and read lots of books, and drank lots of beer.

The dog enjoyed getting the wind in her fur. My husband had to work, but he came down for the weekends. I did a little bit of sewing but not much, number one son had a surf lesson which he really enjoyed, and we had a burst of enthusiasm and painted the dark yellow wall a lovely light blue. It looks much better. I would have stayed there until the end of the month but the boys negotiated an earlier return date ... Canberra is supposed to be 35 degrees today. Hellish.