Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whatcha Reading?

I'm linking up with Judy's Watcha Reading Tuesday (even though it's Wednesday here, but you know how this goes ...)  I am currently reading Death comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James, which I picked up a few days ago at the annual Australia Day book fair at Braidwood for the princely sum of one dollar. It's only a couple of years old, and is a murder mystery set as a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - so it takes place at Pemberley, where Lizzie Bennett has gone to be Mrs Darcy and live happily ever after.

This book is awful. I like P.D. James and a good murder mystery. I love Jane Austen and all the characters in Pride and Prejudice. But this book is stilted and awkward and silly. Everyone stands around declaiming in a self-consciously 1803 way. The plot seems dippy and the characters are shallower than a dried up puddle. I will probably read it to the end, because I want to find out whodunnit, but then it's going on the donate pile without a second glance.

A few more holiday shots

Just to show you that our week at the beach wasn't all sand and surf, here are a few more holiday shots. To show that we did spend our time wisely and productively. We finished a really hard jigsaw.

That house was a struggle. And the trees were nearly impossible. But we defeated it!!!!! The beach house where we stay is pretty basic, and doesn't have a dishwasher. This is number two son quite bemused by the whole idea of a scrubbing brush and dishwashing liquid. The boys were (mostly) in charge of the dishes and they could not believe it had to be done three times a day, and moaned a lot about the outrageous burden of it all.

And we went out one evening for fish and chips by the river. Delicious fresh fish and a lovely setting, but that doesn't stop this child burying his nose in a book. We normally have a restaurant rule that when the food is on the table the books are off it, but hey. It's a holiday...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Well, this sucks

I'm not having a good quilt moment with these moths in windows. In fact, it's been a bit of a disaster since about halfway through making the blocks. I didn't really like the colours and the boringness of the block was making me a bit spare. The brown/orange/yellow fabric is just plain ugly. But I persevered, because you do have up and down moments during a project, and sometimes you just have to keep going even when you're not too sure.

So I made 64 blocks, and batted them and quilted them all individually, and they made a nice soft pile of quilted squares. I trimmed them down and there was a bit of a wild variation in size, but I cut them largely to the same dimensions and hoped for the best.

And I've today finished joining them into pairs, with the navy and white spot fabric, and that was OK, but not very precise. Because I'm unconvinced that the end result is going to look any good at all, I'm rushing and can't be bothered lining stuff up. And quilt-as-you-go is reasonably hard to get exact, you have to use foreign things like pins and rulers if you want it to be square. But I ended up with 32 pairs.

And then I joined the pairs into fours, and it all started to go horribly wrong. Have a look at this. Those are inches on the mat, so I'm about two and a half inches out, on a 24 inch piece! That is not good. If it was even one inch, I would just hack it off, but it's actually going to look completely stupid if I chop this off - I'd lose half the pattern.

So I've thrown it all in the corner of the room after swearing at it and now I'm going to start something else. I'll find it again when I'm tidying up in 2016 and do something with it then.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

No words today, just pictures

Happy Australia Day!!! We've been engaging in national pastimes ...  go to the beach, get wiped out by some surf, drink beer and burn something. Love it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And some craft

My apologies for not much quilty activity on the blog here. My sewing room is upstairs, in the hottest part of the house, so on the very hot days I tend to avoid it. I've been hibernating in the main room next to the air-conditioner, reading, surfing the net and generally bludging.

But we did a bit of craft. This is from Better Homes and Gardens, a show that the boys just LOVE and which I find excruciating. They love the craft and the pets and the home improvements and all the other  joys of a well-maintained suburbia. Maybe they don't share my feelings of inadequacy and dismay when I hear about Lawn Maintenance and Interior Decor. But the one thing we all do with BH&G is bag out Tara. Tara is responsible for some of the mankiest pieces of crap that have ever littered a home improvement show. Tara takes perfectly good lampshades, spray paints them purple, and hot glue guns shit to them. I think Tara has to be taking the piss sometimes, but her wide blue eyes and big toothy smile only ever show a complete belief in crafty wonderfulness.

So I was a bit surprised when the boys wanted to do some Tara art. But it stopped them bickering for five minutes, so we bought the finest canvases the dollar store had, dug some masking tape and old sample pots of paint out of the carport and rolled away, just like Tara.

It was quite fun. I only had one shouty with number two son on how you had to do the RIGHT WAY not LIKE THAT. And now we have these glorious artworks to hang somewhere.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Enjoying our christmas presents

We are enjoying our christmas presents. I got my husband a coffee machine - it's a Nespresso, which has the little pods that you put in and a milk frother attached. It's very easy and no fuss and it makes lovely coffee (or we think it's lovely, we may not be coffee gourmets). Since christmas we've both been having about eight coffees a day, just to push the little buttons and make the whooshing sound and fluff up some very fluffy milk.

It's also the brand that George Clooney advertises, so we call this machine a George Clooney. And the coffee, and the process, and the pods.
   - I'm having a George Clooney, do you want one?
   - It's over there, next to the George Clooney.
   - Sorry, I can't hear you! George Clooney!!!!!

This is my present, a keyboard. It's not a very fancy one, just from Target, but I'm not a very good player. In fact I'm not a player at all - I had two years of lessons back when I was (maybe) seven years old before the piano teacher politely suggested to my parents that if I wasn't interested and wouldn't practice then maybe they could save their money and she could get more enjoyment out of her few remaining years. She was quite old.

So I printed something out from the internet about which note means which white or black thing on the keyboard and bought a book called "Easy Piano Jazz Hits" and away I've gone. I can go about ten minutes before I get bored, which means my progress isn't very rapid. I can do a tune with my right hand just fine - I'm comfortable in the treble clef because I played the tenor saxophone for one glorious (to me) and hideous (to the rest of my family) year back in 1983. I'm a bit more hesitant with the left hand but I can work through it ... but putting the two hands together? Impossible. I think it's just practice though, so I'll keep pegging away.

Until I get bored. Remember the watercolours and instruction book I got the christmas before last, to help my great new adventure into watercolour art? I may be a dilettante.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rolling along

The long summer holidays are just a-rolling along. Some days it's super hot, and some days it's not. Some days I'm at work, and some days I'm at home. Some days the boys are foul bickering satan spawn, and some days they are wholesome fort-building angels. Some days I finish the day with an icy cold vodka-based cocktail, and some days .... scratch that. All days are vodka days.

Thank you for your nice comments on my last post. I think the lady I was talking to had very good intentions and just wanted to be helpful ... but yeah. So part of the holiday kicking back was icecream. I think this was one of the hot hot hot days.

And I bought a new DVD player too. Even though it wasn't really reduced to clear. Don't you hate it when they do this?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finishing a long-buried top

I cleaned out the top of my shelves in the days after Christmas. That's where I chuck finished things that aren't going to be used immediately, and un-finished things that I will do one day, and random lengths of batik I bought in Indonesia, and things in progress that have been demoted, or are being punished for their sins. That's a lot of crap to put on a Expedit four by four.

So I cleared it off, found homes for most of it, and finished up this scrap quilt. It was on the bottom of the pile because I didn't really like it. It's crumb blocks, turned into triangles and made into pinwheels with sixteen different fabrics. But it's nice and big, and will be useful, so I finished it up with some basic machine quilting in the ditch.

Excuse the bad photo - it's been a bit hard to find a day that's not either vividly bright sunny or blowing an absolute gale. The hot grey windy days are the worst. Here's a close up.

One of the reasons I've lost enthusiasm for this quilt was because I was sewing it at the quilt retreat I did in May 2010. I brought a big bag of scraps and I was happily whacking them together at great speed and with little thought ... and someone decided to have a conversation with me about how I should do more complicated things, that take more time, but are worth it, to have something really nice. And suddenly my scrappy messes didn't seem so fun any more. I don't usually mind too much what people say but I think it touched a nerve ... and resulted in nearly three years at the top of the shelf for this poor inoffensive quilt.

This is the back- I also found some strip sets (the yellow and blue) on the shelf that I used and more Samoan prints!!! Only twenty-eight yards to go!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Better crumbs and the lady lamp

I had another go at the crumb blocks. And I don't know if it was because I was in the mood for it, or if I changed my method slightly, but it was fun! And slightly addictive. I made about forty 6 1/2" blocks ... no idea what I'll use them for of course. But that's OK. And there doesn't seem to be any appreciable dent in the box of bits. In fact it seems to be fuller - they were all scrunched flat and I've fluffed them up with my trawling and grabbing. 

I think it was easier this time around because I embraced the diagonal and didn't worry about waste - just chopped it off and chucked it in the bin. Or back in the scrap box! No wonder it didn't get any lower.

Do you like my lilies from Costco? I do like Costco because I am a keen shopper, and it has so much, so much, so much to buy in such wonderful big big big sizes. I've learned not to buy the 1.5 kg bag of chocolate chips (much better quality than homebrand and much cheaper) because I EAT THEM ALL. No self control. And the queues are smaller than the supermarket and you can park closer. Although I do go mid-week.

And do you like the naked lady lamp? I do, although I didn't choose it, my husband did. Back when we first moved to Canberra in 1994, and I didn't have a job, so we were living off his salary - and he had car repayments and a mortgage on a beach house and insurance and superannuation before we even started paying for rent and food for the two of us ... it wasn't fun.

And we had no furniture at all. My husband had been a single guy in a share house before the posting to New Zealand so owned a ratty chest of drawers, a single bed and an ex-government desk. I had two shelves of books, a queen-size duvet and a sewing machine. We rented a little house in the suburbs and haunted the second hand furniture stores trying to pull together enough to stop us looking like derelict squatters. And it wasn't fun. It wasn't vintage, retro, shabby chic or upcycling. It was wading through crap up to your armpits. It was poor quality, grubby, impractical and smelly. There were definite low points. We bought a new fridge on hire purchase and had to ask my parents-in-law to make the second repayment because we couldn't. And I spent my husband's commemorative 50 cent piece collection on groceries to get us through the last 48 hours before payday.

So the point of my story? While we were scouring for second-hand furniture my husband thought it was a good idea to spend about $300 on a naked lady lamp. And now, nearly twenty years of lady-lamp enjoyment later, I can say with confidence that he was right - it was a great idea.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Help me, I'm melting...

It's hot today, it was hot yesterday, and it's going to be hot for the next week ... we're just sort of flopping around like stranded fish. There's a point where the temperature of everything gets above human temperature (what is that? 36C?) and things feel wrong. Toilet seats feel warm. Shoes from the cupboard feel like they've just come off someone's feet. This is not pleasant.

And number one son has an ear infection - from swimming - which means he shouldn't swim. So we're giving it a few days without swimming - much less than recommended - but it's still a hardship. I've let them go with a sprinkler in the back yard a couple of times ... I don't think we're on water restrictions but I actually can't be bothered finding out. Go ahead, report me. I can't see any of my neighbours (who are given to the illegal burning of rubbish and occasional decapitation of protected wildlife (I'll tell you about the snake infestation when the horror has worn off)) dobbing me in.

But I finished the string quilt! Light blocks in the middle, dark blocks around the outside, and free motion quilting in a kind of cross-hatching. I like it, but it's too small for a bed. Maybe a car quilt! Our car quilts turned into picnic blankets and then towels during our trip to the coast, so I know how useful they can be.

The boys are practicing baseball under the eaves in the shade because it's so hot. About three feet from the windows. This is not going to end well...

Saturday, January 5, 2013


There has been much pottering about here over the last few days. We try and get everything done before lunchtime, and then spend the afternoon surviving as best we can in the heat. We have one airconditioning unit in the big room, so there's about a ten-foot tolerable zone we gather in, and try to avoid the rest of the house.

I always feel guilty about turning it on ("global warming!! the planet pays!!!") so I only use the air-conditioner when it gets over 35 (95F). Quite a few of our friends have put in evaporative cooling systems, which are brilliant in Canberra's very dry climate and much more eco-friendly. I might look into in the future but it relies on good ducting and we have a 70s house with raked ceilings and odd roof spaces that don't link to each other. And then it gets cold again and I forget about it .... until next summer.

Part of the pottering was replacing my ironing board cover, which had turned a bit brown and tatty. So I got to use the staple gun again!!! Very satisfying. I used this print that I got in American Samoa in 2010 - isn't it cheerful?? I was saving the Samoan fabric for something special, but I may have forgotten just how much of it I bought ... there is about 30 yards of various hibiscus print in the top of the cupboard and I think I better start using it up.

And we made ninja-bread men! Aren't they cool?? The cutters were a christmas present from my sister to number two son and we think they're hilarious. They really look like ninjas! And tasted delicious.

We took them to our New Year's Eve outing (along with fizzy wine and chocolates :). Canberra has fireworks at midnight but also does a 9 pm firework display for the kiddies. It's held on city hill and can be seen all round the lake, which means there are masses of good places to sit and watch. We found an excellent spot with our friends and settled in ... and then at 8.45 the sprinklers came on. Ooops. Here is a shot of several adults moving picnic blankets and trying unsuccessfully to keep children out of the sprinklers while being careful not to spill their drinks. We re-settled successfully and the fireworks were awesome! I love fireworks.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


This book arrived for me a couple of weeks ago, and I've been giving it a spin and making some crumb blocks. I still have a random box full of odd-size bits that I can't quite bring myself to throw away, and they were perfect for this.

I love Victoria's scrappy quilts, and the energy that this crumb piecing seems to give. But I did not enjoy making these blocks. It seemed to take forever, and it's awkward. I am the opposite of a perfectionist, so it wasn't the angles that were making me crazy, but something else. Anyway, I like the end result so I will have another go and see if it goes any better. Hopefully there won't be as much swearing and foot-stomping this time.

Here are the blocks. Hardly worth the bother really. The heat might not be helping, we're in the thirties all week this week with over 35 (my personal melt point) for the weekend.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!!!

So here we are in 2013!!! How on earth did that happen, I must be getting old when the years seem to zip by so quickly. According to my dad it just keeps getting worse, so that's something to look forward to.

I don't normally ponder the past year, or think about the upcoming year, or make any resolutions. If I worried more about things I'd worry myself into a little greasy stain on the carpet, so I find it's best to avoid self-reflection. But having said that, 2012 was a great year. Without freaking myself out I managed to do heaps of things that I wanted to do. I made lots of lists. Here's one more:

  • I spent a few weeks working full-time doing my boss's job, which was a nice taste of what it would be like if I had any career ambitions. Doing the job was fun, genuinely fun, but it's too time-consuming. It re-affirmed my decision to work part-time at my little job. 
  • I did masses of quilting, and didn't worry about making great art. Or even bad art. That was a relief, and time in the sewing room made me very contented this year.
  • I had six overseas trips, including two countries I'd never been to before, and two wonderful family holidays. 
  • The boys appear to be growing up - physically and mentally - at the appropriate rate, although I'm not sure I have much to do with that. We have fun together now ... most of the time.
  • I got fit (although that's shot to hell now, thank you toe) and we did a few things round the house, with more to come. I turned out a heap of cupboards and chucked a LOT of stuff away.

And, of course, I'm still alive. The great big elephant in my room is the chance (35%, according to the doctor, which sounds quite scientific but I don't think it is) that I won't see 2017. One of my main achievements this year is not being paranoid about EVERY sniffle, cough, and ache (see "worrying into greasy stain" above). So, despite not making resolutions, I am going to enjoy 2013 just as much as 2012. Seizing the day...