Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another year?

The memberships for Canberra Quilters run on a calendar year, so now is the time to renew. And I just cannot decide whether to renew my membership for 2014 or not. I don't get much out of it ... but then I don't put much in either.

I first joined in 2008 or 2009 and then I could only get to the monthly evening meeting - which isn't a heap of fun. No sewing, just rows of seats in a hall, with guild business, show and tell, and sometimes a speaker. It was often interesting but very hard to get to meet anyone or have any kind of conversation. There is a supper afterwards but I am quite shy with people I don't know (and I usually go to bed at 9.30! I can stay awake past then if I have to but it tends to be a bit foggy).

When my youngest started school in 2010 I had a weekday free and went to the Wednesday morning meetings. This was much better - sitting at tables and sewing and chatting. The trouble was I could only make about half of the meetings (work, travel, sick kids) and most of the women there have known each other for many years. Everyone was friendly and polite but I never felt particularly at ease. It wasn't any better in 2011 when I was sick, and 2012 I basically gave up.

In 2013 I started going to the Modern Quilt sub group, which is a smaller group and more closely aligned to the kind of quilts that I do. I enjoyed that for a couple of times but then there was all that fuss about the exhibition quilt ... a few don't talk to me any more.

There are some things that I have really enjoyed - I like being part of the exhibition and helping with the pinning and the white gloves. I loved doing the Quilts For Others at the exhibition. I would be keen to  do more of it  but unfortunately they have their regular working bees on Tuesdays when I work, and Saturdays when the kids play sport.

And underpinning all of this is the feeling that no-one really quilts like I do - not the actual quilts themselves which are common enough - but the attitude. I put quantity before quality and randomness before precision. Near enough is always good enough. I can't see the point of following patterns. I don't understand why anyone would ever want to reproduce someone else's quilt, or why you would get your quilts professionally quilted. It seems to defeat the purpose. Basically I don't care about the end result, which makes for some odd conversations with people who do.

So, what to do? Keep going, enjoy the bits I enjoy and not worry that the rest of it is all vaguely disappointing? Or just give it a rest and come back when I don't have two small children and a job and I can get to know people and enjoy it more?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another quilt along!

I don't know what's happening to me, this is the second time in a few weeks that I've engaged in some on-line trend. I usually avoid them like the plague, but the Penny Patch caught my eye - scrappy and straightforward. My favourite! I didn't follow the instructions though. I couldn't be arsed lining all those squares up the same way, so they just go wherever they want. And I used genuine scraps, so the colours aren't quite as glamorously co-ordinated as they could be. And I thought it was looking too pink, so put some plain cream squares in where there should be the smaller penny patch squares.

I asked number two son to hold it up for me - he protested that his arms weren't long enough, which is nonsense, so I made him do it. He kept protesting, which made number one son pull his arms into his t-shirt and crawl across the floor moaning "my arms are so short, help me, I'm a mutant with tiny little t-rex arms...". So I suggested he get up and hold it himself for a while. Which he did.

I think next time I will stick with just pegging it to the clothesline. But it will make a good toddler present for any wee girls of my acquaintance. Fun to sew and easy to quilt - I'm still going with the baptist fans although this is a modified version. I had a heap of leftover blocks because I am incapable of counting, so I put them on the back which always looks nice. And intentional! Which it wasn't.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

Christmas was its usual quiet self in our house,with just the four of us. The weather was much cooler and very pleasant - we even had a sprinkle or two of rain in the afternoon. In the morning, presents were handed out ... I'm not sure about the hat. I don't think it's Christmas related.

Crackers were pulled at the lunch ... which was prawns and salad. The prawns featured again at dinner (hot garlic) with scallops, and rice paper rolls which were number two son's pick. He likes them and even better he likes making them, and needs minimal assistance. We had chocolate covered cherries for dessert, and some very good King Island brie for a pre-bed snack. All delicious, and no leftovers at all.

Other than that we watched our new Dr Who DVDs  - read our new books - built our new lego. One of us had a nap and did some sewing ... others went for a walk up to the trig point. A bottle or two of red sparkling wine may have also featured.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Finished my machine quilting exercise

Here is the solid colour machine quilting experiment - lots of quilting and every border different.

I'm still not sure about the colours, but the overall effect is pretty good. Some of the borders I like better than others, but that was the point.  Working up some designs that I can use again, and trying them out. I like the final border which has just a one-sided fill pattern. It would look great with both sides done, but for this quilt I wanted the effect of a gap at the end. Almost scalloped.

This is the centre square - I can see how appallingly it's done - it's so uneven! But again, the overall effect is good ... particularly when viewed from a distance.

This quilt is called "Stealing Lines from Patsy Cline" because the middle green border is hand writing - and it was the lyrics to Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits which is what I was listening to at the time. I had some scraps of poetry I was going to use but I found that I couldn't listen to the music and maintain the words in my head; so I just gave up and went with whatever phrase from the song was playing. So it is very disjointed words, but it doesn't matter because it's impossible to read! I wouldn't try and quilt letters if I wanted them to be legible - it's much harder than it looks.

My machine behaved impeccably during this process - I am getting quite fond of it after our initial hurdles. Its extraordinary speed makes such a difference to my quilting; I used to think that I moved far too quickly but now I realise it was just the machine was far too slow :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Time is racing

I cannot believe it is one week to christmas! I haven't even posted the NZ presents, so they're not going to get there in time (sorry, relatives!) and I am deeply disorganised with everything else. I think I might be in denial ... hopefully my husband has got the catering under control, and the kids' presents, because I don't even have a list yet. And I am the queen of lists.

So this is the time of year we wave off our more interesting friends to their overseas postings. Normally we welcome some back too, but not this year ... and no plans to visit anyone in 2014! How dull. So we had a farewell bbq Saturday night - the boys set the table for me.

Not quite what I had envisaged, but worked well. And those are plastic forks - which I normally try to avoid - but the dishwasher broke last Wednesday and was pronounced dead on Friday by the nice dishwasher man. We could have spent a few days researching options and deciding on the best one and comparing prices and bargaining a deal ... or we could have rung the nearest store in a panic and ordered the machine that the dishwasher man recommended in a desperate attempt to get it installed before Christmas. Don't judge.

And in other excitement - just before two dozen people arrived to sit in the back garden on Saturday we discovered a bee swarm in an upturned pot! Thousands of the little blighters, so we called Phil the bee man who came and put out a hive for them to get used to, and he'll come and get it when they've settled down a bit. He reckoned they must have been there a week because of the comb they'd started. The white stuff is comb - the brown stuff is bees. Very cool, although I did take that photo from the safety of the other side of the window. Angry, angry, bees.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A much nicer picture

Yes, Isabelle is quite right, the world does not want or need close up pictures of my bruised appendages. And it is not broken - I'm moving around quite freely and it's going into the lighter stages of violet, yellow and green. Here is a much better photo for you - a little baby quilt I just finished for a two-week old baby boy.

I needed a pattern in a hurry - I had already made a quilt for this baby but number two son took it into school for a favourite teacher who is very pregnant ... and of course he only mentioned it the day before she was due to go off on maternity leave! But I was wasting time on the internet (as usual) and I saw a few people were doing the Starburst Quiltalong. Perfect - a striking simple pattern that could easily be adapted to a smaller size. I didn't quite follow the instructions and made it with half square triangles because I thought it would be easier. Probably wasn't, but worked for me. And I quilted a sunburst for the starburst!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Goddammit toe

I managed to give the little toe I broke last year an almighty whack again as I was getting dressed yesterday morning - on a door frame of all things so I can't even say I wasn't expecting it to be there. It's been there for the seven years I've lived in this house. I was running late for work so ignored it ... and my work yesterday was in Sydney so car (walk walk walk) plane (walk walk walk) train (walk walk walk) office ... and then do it all again  in reverse at the end of the day. I got home and took my shoe off and my toe was this really hideous dark purple colour.

Large enough close up of my feet? I think I may have re-broken it but I'm not going to see a doctor unless it gets worse .. the last thing I need at this time of year is crutches and be told to sit down for two weeks! And if I'd known I was going to injure myself I wouldn't have gone the navy blue polish. Bit grim.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Oh no, swimwear

Does anyone ever go "yay!!! swimwear!!!" I don't think I ever did, even when I wasn't fat and middle aged. It's all so traumatic ... and don't get me started on mastectomy swimwear, apparently boobless women are all 95 years old and completely without taste (although fortunately they do make them up to quite enormous sizes). But I have reached an accommodation with swimwear because I love the water.  And I have realised that it is OK to cover up, and it means you don't have to suncream the vast pale acres of thigh and upper arm, saving both time and money :)

The only problem is the limited options in my size - very boring, mostly plain colours, and ridiculously expensive. When I was in NZ at the beginning of last year I bought a wonderful blue swim top with flowers all over it - but it is starting to perish. My swim tops have a hard life and tend to die young. The photo was at Waterbom at Jakarta last year - such a cool waterpark, and such a fun holiday ... I look like I'm drowning number two son but he was fine, really.

So, last week I ordered some swimwear lycra on-line, drafted a pattern off the flowery top and made myself another three ... didn't bother neatening the seams or doing anything fancy. The neckbands on all three have that dodgy home-made look where they stick up rather than sitting flat ... but I don't care. I thought I would get better by the third one but if anything they were getting worse!

But for $10 worth of fabric and a half-hour sewing time I think they will do absolutely fine. I haven't actually worn them in the surf yet but I will report back any instances of split seams or bizarre sagging. I think the hibiscus print is my favourite but I also did an abstract number.

And some other flowers. Do you like my hand-on-hip photo stance? My NZ nieces are at the age where they dress up in little frocks and go out and get photographed at bars, that then go on the bar's facebook page ... yes, I know, very strange. I'm glad no-one was photographing me when I was out on the town (back in the Jurassic). Anyway, the hand on the hip thing slims your waist! A bit. Apparently. Maybe they can teach me to do a convincing duckface.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fa la la la la

We put the Christmas tree up this week - I make them wait until December. Worst mother in the WORLD ... they tell me that other kids' christmas trees go up in November. I refuse to believe this. Our tree was looking a bit the worse for wear so in the sales last year I scored a nine-foot tree for 90% off! I love a bargain. We could probably go another six feet of tree; I'll keep an eye on the sales. But that would be a rather large tree, I'm not holding my breath.

We don't do colour co-ordination, or themes, or make any concessions to taste or style.

We don't require our ornaments to be actual Christmas tree ornaments. This is a small stuffed camel we bought on our honeymoon in Rajasthan.

In fact we don't require any connection with Christmas at all. As well as the little pink pig, we have a cupcake, a home-made golden snitch and a dalek.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A whole week

It's been a whole week since I last blogged, which is much longer than usual and I can't even blame my flu thing because it has all well and truly gone. Thank goodness. I'm still plugging away on my machine quilting exercise but I ran out of thread (it uses a LOT of thread) so I got distracted and started something else and I haven't quite finished that yet and .... you know how it goes.

And of course we have been doing this!!

Still not exactly tropical down the South Coast - one son plunged in with boogie board and spent half an hour in the water but the other son took a quick squealing dip before settling to making sandcastles. I went in up to my waist before retreating and my husband didn't get above his knees! But the weather was beautiful and it's always nice to be by the sea.

We bought some new dining chairs (we now have four! So we can all eat together) and scoped out a clothesline but mostly read books, watched movies and blobbed about. Not bad for a short weekend getaway.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some foul bug

I've been laid up the last couple of days with some virus - really vague symptoms but generally feeling extremely tired and dizzy and worn out. A couple of people at work have had something similar and it must have been my turn! At least I'm feeling much better today, if a little wrung out. Which all means nothing exciting to write about at all.

Thank you for your comments on Costco - I can report that the Fries Sprinkle was a success; I expected it to take a bit fake and weird but it was actually just a yummy peppery flavour that livened up the potatoes no end. Just as well it was good because I have a tub the size of my hand.

And Tammy asked why I was talking about butter colour - here is a photo. On the right is American butter, and on the left is Australian butter (complete with crumbs, I am clearly a slattern. Isn't that a great word - slattern?). The American is much paler (the tub is the churned spreadable stuff, but Australian cooking butter is exactly the same colour). Both sorts taste the same, but I hadn't realised how much I rely on colour when I'm creaming butter and sugar for a cake, or cooking it with flour for a white sauce, or seeing how hot it is for pancakes. Butter colour ... that, ladies and gentleman, is the most exciting thought I have had for about four days now.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Practising my quilting

Last weekend I pieced together a big simple medallion in plain colours (yellow and purple and green, which I am not terribly sure about now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time). I am quilting every border in something different to practice free motion machine quilting; not marking or drawing anything but trying out a few designs completely freehand. Unsurprisingly, some are much more successful than others. I re-did the baptist fans on a smaller scale. There's about a quarter inch between the stitching lines.

Luckily I had a long meeting on Tuesday afternoon where I could doodle to my heart's content. I justify this by saying I listen better when I doodle .... if I have to sit and stare at the speaker my mind completely wanders off. But if my hands are doing something then I can listen properly and even make sensible comments (when I can think of anything sensible to say. Not always guaranteed). And for some reason my work colleagues take a dim view of me bringing my knitting into meetings, but if you have a pen and paper - who knows - you might even be taking notes. Hah.

These ferns came out quite nicely when I stitched them up, as did the ubiquitous peapods. Modern quilting motif of the month I think. I used a striped sheeting on the back, so the back of the quilt bears a strange resemblance to my doodles...

Today was a very quiet Saturday - my husband did baseball after my  heroic efforts on the fund raising bbq last weekend. Actually not so heroic but my god it was cold. I stayed home this morning and coppiced the daisies which had gotten enormous. I took out the secateurs but ended up pruning them with a hacksaw! If you need a saw to prune your daisies then they are far too big. 

So in the end my only outing today was for more thread. Number one son came too, and bought some modelling clay, to make an Egyptian vase. They are doing a unit on ancient egypt and we have had obelisks and the odd hieroglyphic. I'm keeping some white fabric on hand because there is certain to be a wrapped-up mummy sooner or later...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A utility quilt

Well, now I have another whole house to furnish, I thought I better make some quilts. Despite the fact that I have enough quilts already for about eighteen houses, and we only actually have one bed at the beach house at the moment (and a couple of camping mattresses for the boys), I felt the urge to make another everyday quilt. Just in case. So this is what those shoo fly blocks I was making from my 3 1/2 " strips turned into.

I called it "Fingertips". Not sure why. It was fun to make - nice and easy - and very scrappy. Fabrics are used once or twice at most in the blocks, and possibly again in the border.

I quilted it in an allover baptist fan; modified to allow it to be continuous. It was a good quick way of covering all that ground and you can't even see it from the front. It just looks like some sort of curved quilting - I could have done a random meander but I liked the fans and the discipline of rows kept it marginally even. It might be easier to see from the back. A bit crooked but I got much better at it by the end!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Not up to much

It's been five days since my last post which is longer than usual - but not because I've been up to anything interesting. Now we're back from New Zealand and had the first inspection of the beach house it is all a bit ho hum. And the weather has been really cold and rainy so I just want it to warm up and be proper seaside weather! Summer can't be too far off; remind me of this when I'm whining about the heat in February. On the sewing front, I used the dark grey I dyed to make pink and grey flying geese.

I may or may not trim off those dog ears. I don't know what I'll use them for but I'll keep making them and see where they take me. I suspect not very far, I only dyed half a metre of that grey. Maybe a very small quilt ... And that's all the sewing to report. I've been going to work, boring, and even my non-working Wednesday was fairly dull. I dead-headed the roses.

They are pretty. And I went to Costco. I do like Costco, I know I should prefer organic boutique pop-up whatever but I wander very happily round Costco with my enormous shopping trolley. Staring at the strange American things. Who would buy two litres of mayonnaise? What is frozen cookie dough? Why is the cheese a funny dark yellow and the butter weirdly pale? I bought something in a jar called "Fries Sprinkle" today that apparently you put on potatoes. I will give it a try and report back.

As you can see, I mostly buy a month's worth of meat for the freezer. Makes life much easier. I've learned not to be sucked in by the huge quantities, no matter how cheap they are. I just end up throwing half of it out (looking at you one litre tub of bocconcini) or overeating to the point of illness (1.2 kilo bag of dark chocolate chips, my god that was good).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Guess what I bought?

I've been up to something that I haven't shared on this blog - not because it's a super secret but just because until it was all signed and sealed I didn't want to jinx myself! You know sometimes you don't like to share good things in case it all goes horribly wrong? Well, it's finally all wrapped up and handed over and I can say that we have actually gone and bought ourselves a beach house!

My husband and I have been talking about this for twenty years - we both love the sea and being beside the beach - and every time we go to the coast we peer into real estate windows and do our sums and then ... nothing. So in August we realised that we're not getting any younger and if we want to have this as a family thing - while the kids are still happy to go on holiday with us - then we better just bite the bullet and do it. It will make it a bit tight financially, but then we never seem to have any money, so at least now we have something to blame for being constantly broke...

Finding one was dead easy once we'd decided - my husband and I drove down for the day, looked at 9 places, picked one, made an offer which was accepted the same day (which means it was FAR too high but I'm trying not to think about that) and then everything else just fell into place. The people we are buying it from also used it as a beach place - we didn't meet them but they left us a folder full of instructions to all the appliances and a lovely note on the top! We bought their furniture and washing machine and fridge at very reasonable prices and I think they left far more than we actually paid for ... but all gratefully received. I am trying to furnish and fit out the entire place for a budget of basically nothing. Hand me downs and garage sales!

We redeemed our impractical decision slightly by buying a very practical place - only twenty years old, tidy little brick and tile two bedroom with a small garden and low maintenance (hopefully). We would both love the romantic windswept shack in the dunes but we couldn't afford it and would struggle to maintain it. So this is our street.

You go four houses along, turn the corner, cross the road, over the dunes, and then you're at the beach.

The day was hot but the water temp was freezing! We made sandcastles and got sandy and wet but didn't swim. Even going up to your kneecaps meant lots of squealing and jumping.

And after tea we went down again for another walk. We've been holidaying at this beach for many many years and I know it can get quite busy in midsummer but just look at this emptiness in early November. It gives it all such a different twist when you can think of yourself as an almost-local.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I had a good sort through of my dyed and solid fabric and weeded out those that were too ugly to use or had some other fundamental flaw. And then I overdyed them, and they are all much better now. Not super wonderful, but at least useable. First up was yards and yards of commercially dyed yellow brown. I think it was left over the gingerbread man costume in 2010.

It went a lovely teal.

Another disaster in black and purple - I still have a few yards of this to do.

It went dark green - a bit gloomy but I'll probably find a use for it in something.

I did this with fabric paint when I thought that might be fun. It was a bit wishy washy and not very interesting.

I overdyed it with bright green and it didn't get any more interesting. Just greener.

These two were dyeing mistakes - not enough dye and not a high enough ambient temperature. One of the reasons why I stopped dyeing in winter.

But they did go a very nice moroccan red! Finally. I added in heaps of the dye powder and it worked much better than my earlier attempts.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Back into it

I'm back at work and the boys are back at school and I'm also back in the sewing room ... which is lovely. I haven't quite decided what to make next because I want to use the stuff I've been dyeing. And so I have to think about it a little bit before I start chopping. Not a lot of thought, but a little bit, which is more than usual. In the meantime I finished up the baby medallion quilt. I did the top a while ago.

I don't think I mentioned but I did two of them - twins! Two baby girls, so two quilts kind of the same but mostly different. It's quite fun to do - almost all the same fabrics just in a different pattern. And with different quilting. I like them both.

The babies have been born so I'll pop those in the post soon ... actually posting them is always the part where I procrastinate! I don't know why, it's not exactly difficult, and I need the space on my shelf.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A week in New Zealand

We've just got back from a short holiday to New Zealand - kind of a long way to go for a party but we took a week and caught up with family and generally had a break. We really went because we decided not to go to Argentina - which is another post in itself. (How can someone do a blog post about why they didn't go to Argentina? Don't most people wake up every day, decide not to go to Argentina and not feel the need to explain it? Probably.) It was so nice for the cousins to get together ... and wrestle. Boys.

 So, what did we do? What any normal person would do in in NZ of course. Geysers and boiling mud.

Admired the view.

And another view. Apparently NZ national parks have these picture frames at scenic points. Isn't it a cool idea? And it was such a beautiful day.

We went up a hill in these.

And came down a hill on these.

Grandad took them fishing and they ACTUALLY CAUGHT FISH. Which we had for dinner.

And the best of all was on number two son's birthday - when we visited the Shire. Yep, we spent some time in downtown Hobbiton. More hobbit holes than you could poke a gnarled (yet magical) stick at. All that time spent watching the Lord of the Rings movies (them, not me, I find it a bit torpid) paid off.

So now we're back - tired and broke! It's ten hours door to door from my house to my sister's house in Auckland - which is a long day but not a major trip. It's only two hours time difference but I'm waking up a bit early, which means I can go into work and get something done before I fade away. Jet lag across the Tasman, how shaming.