Monday, December 31, 2012

Quick trip to the coast

I like to take every opportunity to get near the ocean - my one gripe about Canberra is that it is so far inland. I love the sea - being at the beach, swimming, splashing in the surf .... everything about it except being in a boat ON the sea. Because that makes me puke. So when friends invited us down for an overnight stay  we packed ourselves up and left. Doesn't that make it sound easy? Putting enough things together for 4 of us for 48 hours took about three days and completely filled the car ... and even then we forgot the kids' boogy boards.

But it was worth it. This is a little beach we went to on the first day - it was a windy day and this was the most sheltered choice. This photo looks quite deceptively sunny, it was about 20 degrees in the air and about 14 degrees in the water. Not that the ocean on the south coast ever gets very warm - straight from Antarctica I think. The best thing about this beach was as I was splashing about squealing (it was COLD) two perfectly synchronised dolphins leaped high over the wave in front of me and landed back down before playing in the breakers for a couple of minutes. Just breathtaking! Luckily I didn't see them before they leapt - there is nothing like seeing a fin attached to a dark shape in the water to have you levitating back on to the sand. I have lost bowel control because of dolphins before now.

Our friends were renting a house right on the lake - on one of those big peninsulas that have lakes on either side open to the sea and then wonderful surf beaches at the end of the peninsula. The house was lovely and felt like a beach house with a great big deck out the front for sitting. And sitting some more. And having a beer, while sitting. The boys had ice blocks.

On the second day we went to another beach that was patrolled - it was a bit rough and the beaches had rips, so I prefer the safety of lifesavers, especially with the kids. It wasn't exactly tropical, but I had a wonderful swim and splash in the surf - caught enough waves on a (borrowed) boogy board to get my adrenalin rush, and got dumped by enough of them to get a bellyful of salt water and sand in my gussets. After being largely motionless for the last month because of this stupid toe, it was nice to be out of breath for a while. Although that might just have been the icy water.

Just looking at the pictures there makes me wish I was back there! We might have to do another flying visit in the next week or two. It was a three-hour drive because of the traffic and a couple of snack stops ... but I'll do that to get my saltwater fix.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yay for christmas

We had a lovely christmas. Ate too much, drank too much, gave the children too many presents... so now we're fat, hungover and broke. Yay! I'd do it all again tomorrow. Christmas Eve we didn't do much - a tiny bit of last minute shopping and then dipping the cherries in chocolate. It's a family event.

We had christmas morning at home, just the four of us, with a traditional breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, and opening our presents. The boys got new baseball bats and wiffle balls to practice with (this is the last known sighting of this ball, we think it's just through the neighbour's fence but we can't quite spot it).

Then we went round to friends for a wonderful lunch/dinner - one on-going feast that lasted many hours. It was very relaxing and we had a wonderful time. The food was amazing.

And the wine was flowing, so Boxing Day was spent a bit bleary-eyed and quiet.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

String piecing

I don't know what brought this on but I felt like some plain old string piecing. On paper. It's not really strings because I used 2 1/2" strips, so they are all the same width, and I'm doing 16 lights and 20 darks and then I'll put them together somehow. Normally I find these blocks really boring to make, but for some reason, they are hitting the spot at the moment.

Here's a light one. And below is the back of a dark one before I take the paper off.

I ripped all the paper off while watching TV - it's a good brainless task to do while plonked on the sofa. Zelda the Fattest Cat in the World thought that I was making all these little strips of paper for her amusement. Every time I added one to the pile she claimed it with a big sharp claw ... and every few minutes, just for fun, she'd rustle them all up and bite them. When I was finished and wanted to tidy everything up I had to get my husband to lure her to another room (with food of course) or she would have ripped my arm off.

Friday, December 21, 2012


We had a work afternoon tea yesterday - for the end of the year, and to farewell some people, and generally just because ... My workplace has about eighty people, which is not huge but enough so that you can go weeks or even months without seeing some people. So social events are lovely, and because I have been there for YEARS and YEARS I can always find someone to chitchat to.

So I was wondering what to bake while procrastinating on the internet and I saw the Cracker Bark on  Tammy's blog.  The recipe is over on Mennonite Girls Can Cook, which is not a website I am familiar with - I tend to steer away from anything that lets you request a prayer on the front page because it  generally heralds a quick descent into genuine crazy ... but if you stick to the cooking those mennonite girls are just fine. I used Salada crackers, which were perfect. And I didn't use the peanut butter chips - I'm not sure what they are, my local shop certainly didn't have any, and we have serious peanut allergies at work - so just covered it with toasted almond flakes and the choc chips.

It was delicious, and even better than delicious, it was different. No-one had had anything quite like it before, and the mix of salt and caramel and chocolate was a real hit. I pointed half a dozen people in the direction of the recipe so hopefully someone else will make it too! Thanks Tammy!!!

I love finding something that is a bit new in the cookery world - popovers are something I make regularly and most people haven't had them before - such a simple concept and so yum. Especially with jam and cream ....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In which I question my sanity

As you know, dear readers, I have two boys. My world is pretty blokey - cars and trucks and fart jokes.    This is fine by me - I did kind of want an adorable little dress-up pink baby but they do tend to turn into young ladies with minds (and mouths) of their own a year or two before boys. Well, as far as I can figure from watching other people's children.

Anyway, this Christmas we are going to friends, who have two daughters, one of whom is into Barbie. So I got her a Barbie, and I brought it home ... and it had not been in the secret present stash for more than two minutes before I got Miss Barbie down, ripped her out of the box, emptied out the dance-school scrap bag and started making that skinny blonde some clothes. It was overpowering. I am going to have to buy another Barbie to give to the actual kid.

Look, an opera cloak. For when she goes to the opera. This was the most fun I have had sewing for MONTHS.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

As usual

As usual, the onion says it best. Jeez.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baby quilt

This is for a work colleague who is having another little boy (well, his wife is, but you know) - I think it was yesterday! I haven't heard how it went, hopefully all OK. These people who forget to let their work know the INSTANT they have a baby, such self-centredness. Anyway, this is obviously quite a straightforward single block - I think everyone was making it last year but I can't remember what it's called. I tend to save photos of things that catch my eye in random places and then flick through them when I need inspiration. It works well on the inspiration front, but quite poorly on the record-keeping and ever-finding-things-again front.

You can see I got my husband to hold this one up - one of the advantages of having him chauffeur me around. Hang on a second sweetie, can you just hold this, then we can go, promise. On toe news, it is improving markedly. I drove myself into work today, which was fine, although the walk from the carpark building to my office is just slightly too far. I took it real real slow, lurching from side to side. I looked like the zombie apocalypse.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not much happening here

It may not surprise you to hear that it's been a pretty boring few days chez Lynley. In fact I have left the house once since Tuesday and that was yesterday for baseball. I'm still not driving. And, like an invalid, I got dropped off at baseball, propped up on a folding chair and given the score sheet ... actually that's the same as every week, scoring is my allotted task.

It's quite simple for the under 10s, you just have to keep track of outs and homes; but even that can challenge my level of focus. They are still at the age where the parents get REALLY excited if anyone connects with the ball, and then remembers to run to first and not just stand there watching the ball go up ... and down... And then if anyone actually makes to it second or third, let alone home, there is hollering and shrieking and wild applause like they'd won the world series. Which makes it a bit difficult to keep track of which little kiddie makes it over the plate in the end, and whether they've had two or three outs.

Luckily if you get it a little bit wrong no-one seems to mind. I hear stories about crazed and competitive parents but I have yet to meet one. I was worried one week when I realised I'd let the other side have five outs (there are no umpires, it's all done by consensus) but the other team manager said "no worries mate, we're not playing for sheep stations" which seems a nicely Australian take on a very American game.

There has been some quilting. I have to work the foot pedal with my left foot, which took a little bit of getting used to. I've been sewing since I was seven (35 years!!! argh!!!) and the connection between my brain and my right pedal foot seems completely hardwired. It took a few false starts (and worse, missed stops) but I can do it, although it still feels weird.

I re-trained myself to use a computer mouse with my left hand when I was getting pains in my right wrist (I told everyone it was because of work, but it was actually The Sims) and it's feasible once you get over the initial awkwardness. When I was 19 I was swimming a lot for exercise and I read an article in Cosmopolitan or some other equally reputable source that said that if you always breathed on the same side you'd get hideously overdeveloped muscles in one side only in your back and you'd never get a boyfriend EVER. So over a few weeks I changed to breathing on alternate sides - just a couple of near drownings - and it was the best thing I ever did for my swimming. It's a much more even and relaxed way to swim.

God, can you tell I haven't had many people to talk to this week? I'm blathering into my blog. So the sewing I've been doing is the Moth in a Window quilting - I've made each block into a little quilt sandwich and I'll join them together in the fullness of time. I haven't made all the blocks yet, but that involves getting up, which I've been trying not to do, so I'm just sitting and quilting. It's quite satisfying because I get to use up ugly fabric on the back and all those little pieces of batting!! I have tubs full of bits that I am finally getting to use.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December, already??

I know the calendar doesn't lie, but really? December? We have a tradition (more of a house rule) that we put our Christmas tree up in the first weekend in December. The boys would have it up from August, and I wouldn't bother at all, so it's a compromise. The boys did all the hard labour this year, and it looks wonderful.

They did all the decorating because it turns out I have a broken pinky toe. My foot kept hurting so eventually I went to the doctor, who sent me for x-rays after muttering darkly about Broken Foot and Six Weeks in Plaster ... which meant I was very relieved to find out it's just a broken toe. But it would explain why it hurt so much. So I avoided having to have a plaster cast, but I am supposed to spend the next two weeks not walking or driving.

It's really hard not to walk!!! I'm going to work from home for the rest of the week, which is easy enough as I have a desk job, remote access to all the emails and documents, and a team with my mobile on speed dial. It is hard not to want to keep doing things ... although I should not whinge about HAVING to stay on the sofa and watch television while my meals are cooked and the washing is done :) Poor husband of mine.

One job I can do is digitising the vinyl - recording all of our old albums into a MP3 file and onto the computer. It is so low-tech that I have to do the recording in real time and actually listen to each album as it plays through and gets recorded. The boys were fascinated by this bizarre concept of vinyl, and grooves, and a stylus. I couldn't explain to them how it worked with any degree of accuracy so we googled it and all learned something.

The albums themselves are a bit of a laugh. My husband worked in the record section of a department store while he was at school and university, so has a fairly decent collection even though I question his taste. If I roll my eyes at anything in particular he says it was a gift. Surely not. We both deny responsibility for the one above. "Why did you buy that?" "I thought it was yours?" "Mine! God no, I would never buy that" etc.

This is one of my favourite albums, not because of any musical merit but because I had it on constant rotation for about six months in 1985 and then never again - so every song takes me straight back to the delights and horrors of life as a 15 year old girl. Strangely, I still know all the words to every song. Ask me what I read yesterday in the very useful "Practitioners Guide: Capacity Assessment of Anti-Corruption Agencies" and I would stare at you blankly - but apparently there is plenty of room in my brain for three verses and a chorus of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".

Friday, November 30, 2012

Just not winning

I'm sure that I printed on fabric last year without a problem. Positive. Whatever I did then, I must have failed to do now, because I have completely buggered the printer. That blue stuff is NOT MOVING.

And I've done something to my toe. Swollen and bruised and painful - I'll go and see the doctor this afternoon although I don't think there's anything she can do. Toes, what a pain.

So I have lots to do, it's nasty hot and windy, I can't really walk properly and I'm in pain. And I can't print anything. Such a day...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mulch mulch mulch mulch

I've been thinking about re-naming this blog for a while ... it's not just about quilting. I haven't thought of a better name though. Choosing a name for a blog is really hard! You either have to go slightly obscure with something that means something to you but no-one else, or you can go with boringly descriptive, or you can try something funny but that gets tired pretty quickly, or you can try and "brand" it like it's coca cola. I went with boringly descriptive in the end, but if the description isn't right, then all you're left with is boring! 

I will continue to ponder on it. I like to spend most of my time thinking about really trivial matters while I put off doing important things. In the meantime, there is mulch. This is the scene outside our house. Lucky neighbours, having us consistently lower the tone of the street.

These are the steps (some of them) from our house up to the road. If you want to get mulch from the street to the back garden where the roses are, you carry it in a bucket.

And put it into a wheelbarrow.

Four shovelfuls in a bucket. Eighteen steps to the wheelbarrow down, and eighteen back up. Three bucketloads make a wheelbarrow full. One wheelbarrow covers about half a square meter of garden bed. Repeat...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Off his oats

Number one son is off his oats today - a bit of a bug perhaps. Do you like my medical expertise, yay for Doctor Mum. Either the kids have a bit of a bug, or they're just tired out, or I might stretch to diagnosing an upset tummy. And that covers the whole range of childhood ailments. I give them paracetamol regardless and test temperature with the back of the hand to the forehead (two options - "seems fine" or "a bit warm"). So today, which was going to be crazy busy with all the chores and running around that had been building up in my absence, is now rather delightfully housebound. Here's the invalid somewhere under the bundle of quilts. It's thirty degrees out there, I'm not sure if he needs all those layers.

I'm still going with the moths in the windows. I'm going to do 64, and I've made 34, and I've figured out it takes me 35 minutes to make a pair, so that means it'll take me, um, 15 x 35 / 60 = 8.75 hours to make all the rest of the blocks! That's OK. And then I think I might quilt them as I go and join them at the same time. Which will take forever.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nice to be home!

I'm pleased to see home and the family again, and I think home and the family are pleased to see me. There were storms all up and down the east coast when I flew home so everything was delayed and we circled Sydney for quite some time ... but at least my little flight to Canberra was also delayed, so I made the connection and got home in the end, even though quite late on Sunday night. And then off to work on Monday! I went, but I don't know if I achieved very much.

All the plants seem to have grown two feet in every direction while I've been away, particularly the weeds. I was going to go for a walk/run this morning but then thought that I could actually work up a sweat AND do something useful in the garden, so I did. Chopping, pruning, clearing and even a bit of weeding. You can see the roses again! They are so pretty.

Then I rang the man with the tipper truck and he arrived this afternoon and dumped five cubic metres of mulch on the front verge that will be laboriously wheelbarrowed down and spread on the beds. We did it a few years ago when we moved in but it's all broken down now and it needs another good mulching. We love mulch - six inches of mulch will stop any weeds and even keep some moisture in the soil. If there is any at the moment... haven't seen much rain lately. Not like Wellington. I still think Wellington's a fabulous place but I was sitting last night with all the doors open and the warm summer air coming in with cicadas chirping and thought maybe Canberra does have some good points...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wellington, so awesome

OK, awesome except for the weather, which is a bit changeable. This morning the sunshine had gone and the wind and rain and clouds swept in. The hills are so tall that they sit up in the low clouds. Bleak!

I took this one a few days ago - Wellington loves a bit of public art. Large kina sculptures being lowered carefully into place ... and why not. A kina is a sea urchin - a couple of inches across, and apparently good to eat, although it's one of the few things you can dig out of the sea that I've never eaten. When we were kids and someone got a really short haircut we used to call it a "kina cut" because it was all spiky and ugly. Bit cruel in hindsight, but I do like the sculptures.

And you know the quilt I made a couple of months ago and called "Helen Clark"? Well look who I got to listen to this week! The lady herself ... and I even got a few moments of chitchat with her beforehand. I am going to call my next quilt "Hillary Clinton" or possibly even "George Clooney"! A bit optimistic?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So, where am I?

It's nearly time to go back to Canberra, but I had to share some photos of "the coolest little capital in the world" ... the Lonely Planet apparently called it that once and it has been seized on by the local populace! Largely because it's true. This is Wellington (New Zealand) and it is very beautiful.

It also has appalling weather. It was 15 degrees yesterday but the sun was out which made it officially summer and EVERYONE was down by the waterfront in their shirt sleeves pretending it was the Caribbean. So pretty in the sun... Charles and Camilla had graced this waterfront a mere few hours before I took this photo so it was still looking very clean and tidy.

Wellington has nice old Houses of Parliament made of stone. It also has a very creepy Speaker of the House of Representatives, fortunately my cocktail-reception-small-talk-skills are up to the task of finding him someone ELSE to talk to.

I moved to Wellington for university when I was 17, and loved it from day one. I've been getting a free hour or two most afternoons / evenings so I've gone on nostalgia walks! I'm old enough now. Re-tracing my steps all through the city to the old rundown places I used to live, and how I used to walk to uni and back every day. Most of is it unchanged.

Wellington is also where my husband and I met. And below is the street where, 20 years ago yesterday, I moved in with him... the first little townhouse on the left. I wanted to take a full-on picture from the street but just as I was getting my camera out I noticed a woman standing in the kitchen of the house about six feet away STARING at me like she was about to call the police. I should have just taken the photo but I got such a fright I ran away. Which made it even more suspicious! In fact I was so mortified I went all the way around the block so I wouldn't have to walk back past her. I'm such a coward.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Postage stamp done!

I was undecided about the border - in the end I went with a completely unrelated fabric! There wasn't enough of the main red fabric to do the border, and un-related reds looked a bit odd. So I thought it best to avoid reds altogether, although I went with a close match for the binding and I think it turned out OK.

I called it "the play is on first and third" because there's a lot of baseball in my life right now ... and also if you squint right it's baseball diamonds. Kind of. I took these last weekend because since then I have hopped on a plan to another exotic Pacific destination! Not quite as warm as some of the others but wonderful nonetheless. If I ever stop working and make it outdoors I'll take some photos and share the full gorgeousness. In the meantime, settle for the gorgeousness of this quilt... and the not-so-appealing garden equipment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moths in the window

I cannot resist a scrappy fad!! I completely got sidetracked by Florabunda, and now it's Moths in Windows. I do love Bonnie's scrappy quilts, even though mine are not usually so complicated. I haven't got any old shirtings to use, so I'm just going to use random blue and green prints, and my collection of gold/brown/orange solids. 

I wasn't too sure how to make them - I wasn't sure if Bonnie had posted instructions and couldn't be bothered looking - but on drawing they looked pretty straightforward. I've gone with using 3 1/2 " strips for the triangle bits and 2" strips for the outside strips and squares. This means I can use some of my pre-cut strips! I do like using them. I'm doing a positive and a negative from each fabric; that is, one where the "moth" is the solid and one where it is the print. I don't think it'll matter in the end because I'm planning on putting them together with some sashing, but I'll make 64 blocks and see how they look.

Pretty crappy photo, it's from my phone because it was just too hard to walk ten steps to get the camera...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Medallions of happiness

A couple of weeks ago I got this book in the mail ....

And all other sewing stopped, pretty much instantly. I have made a few liberated medallions before - and some not so liberated - but seeing all the ideas in one place was completely irrestible. For the centre, I had a perfect blue mock-toile-de-Jouy that was such an odd blue that I'd never been able to use it. And it all grew from there! So much fun to add borders and triangles and more borders and then, just when I was getting bored, I could stop!!!! Perfect.

It's only a top at this stage and I'm thinking that I might hand quilt it because I've nearly finished the postage stamp and I need something to do while I watch Toddlers and Tiaras cutting-edge television drama. There are quite a lot of seams for hand quilting but I could probably do something in the middle of the borders that wouldn't be too onerous.

My husband went up to Sydney for the weekend for their scale modellers show - he entered something in but didn't win :( An unappreciated genius, much like me. So I wrangled the boys through baseball and tidying up the house; introducing them to the delights of unloading the dishwashing and cleaning the toilet! Hah!!!! They are more than old enough to do this kind of thing, kids their age all over the world are making soccer balls, so ten minutes vacuuming is getting off lightly. I tell them this, it doesn't seem to carry any weight. And they escaped to the trampoline in the end.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cushion cover!

I turned that stripey quilt I didn't like into a cushion cover in the end. The cushions that live on the family room floor have a fairly short (and difficult) life, so there is always one that's looking a bit manky and fit for a re-cover.

I used this fabric for the back. It was an internet purchase where I liked the colour but perhaps should have looked at the photo in a bit more detail. Seriously, who would put those words on a quilt? It's like the quilt would be hectoring you the whole time about your character flaws.