Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Quilting a bit

I'm quilting the enormous scrappy one that I don't really like. Someone said it looked a bit christmassy so I'm doing a kind of modified holly overall pattern thing. It's meant to look like this but I'm not sure if I'm achieving it.

Such a wrestle to get the damn thing through my machine. Sometimes I really enjoy doing an allover pattern on a big quilt - it's nice and therapeutic and looks good. And sometimes it just irritates me and I wish it could be finished quicker ... this is an irritable one. The gaps between the quilting lines get wider and wider as I try to get it done faster. That's not a problem though, I don't like super dense quilting on a bed quilt.

I spent an hour slicing the leftover fabric into strips, which always feels good, so now I might just sew up some little blocks with them. I don't have a project at the moment that I'm burning to work on and it feels quite good, I might just potter for a while.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas

We had a lovely quiet Christmas - just the four of us (and the cat, the dog, and two rabbits) - hanging out at home, opening presents and eating yummy food. It rained on and off during the day so it was lovely and cool ... in the afternoon we went for a walk (not the cat, or the rabbits). Christmas Eve we went into town and looked at the lights.

It's a massive LED light display in the main pedestrian plaza that you can walk through. There were tons of people around just strolling (the shops had shut by then). There's also a carousel in the middle of town that is mostly quite neglected and sad looking but for once it was great; full with people and kids and all lit up. Like a carousel is supposed to be.

The dog is fitting into the family beautifully - she is very calm and seems happy to be with us. She loves food and sleeping, especially at someone's feet. She's decided my husband is pack leader (humph) and follows him around dotingly.

The cat is still absolutely outraged and has taken a couple of swipes; but the level of fury is diminishing, so we're hoping they reach some kind of detente. Mishka (the dog) completely avoids Zelda (the cat) whenever possible, but sometimes she gets ambushed from a sofa arm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

So much going on

What is the perfect thing to do two days before Christmas? How about adopting a dog? Because we've got nothing else to worry about ... but sometimes you just have to roll with it. We have been talking about getting a dog for ages now, and had looked at a number of rescue ones, and then the right one came along, so we just went for it. Here is Mishka.

She is a seven year old German spitz (American Eskimo Dog I think in the US) and is cute, calm, middle-aged and friendly. It's only the first afternoon but so far so good (we'll see how she sleeps!). We're trying to ignore her this afternoon so she knows that we are the top dogs, and she seems to be settling in well. Anyway it has given us something to think about today .... we've never had a dog before so it's a steep learning curve of food and toys and beds and leads.

I will let you know how it goes ... she comes with a 14 day return policy. Just saying.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Time for one last trip

So this week was a very quick trip to Suva - the capital of Fiji. I had been to Nadi, but never to Suva, so it was very interesting to see what it was like. It's the big smoke of the South Pacific, and more of a commercial and government hub than a tourist town. But of course very beautiful with a harbour and perfect south sea island hills. I love pointy hills.

We went to the museum one day after work which was great - this is an ocean going canoe. An amazing feat of engineering but bugger that! Going to sea in something so precarious, even if you knew what you were doing. Hard to imagine they colonised thousands of miles of ocean.

This is a really useful trip and I'm glad we managed to squeeze it in before Christmas - but I'm looking forward to a weekend at home! (Remind me of this at the end of January when I have cabin fever and about to throttle the children).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I feel like I should put up some pictures of Palau because it was just so amazingly beautiful. We did get to go on a boat trip the day that the government offices were closed, and it was incredible. I'm no stranger to tropical seas, but the rock islands are beautiful, the snorkelling was awesome, and the jelly fish lake was mind blowing!!!

This is a rock island - there are hundreds of these little islands, where the sea has eroded the base and they look like they're floating. We stopped at a couple of spots to snorkel and I have seldom seen such a variety and number of fish.

This is where we stopped for lunch. There aren't many beaches among the islands so we shared it with a lot of other tour boats - but it didn't feel crowded. I just think good luck to Palau if they can get the tourist dollar ... I see so many places that would be so attractive to tourists if only there was decent access and infrastructure - it's nice to see a place milking it! And protecting their environment at the same time - they know that it's the key attraction and the Palauans seem to be very careful about maintaining what they have.

Picture: David Kirkland/HotSpot

We went to jellyfish lake which is absolutely incredible. A freshwater lake in the middle of a large rock island, that has about 20 million jellyfish (allegedly) which have evolved not to sting, as they have no predators. It's a beautiful setting and, swear to god, it's just like this photo. I didn't take any photos because I only had my iphone, but we were snorkelling away through an absolute soup of jellies. And they are adorable! Big ones sort of sedately go past, and the little ones pump / squish themselves past at twice the rate. You're not meant to touch them but I figured a few gentle pats on the squishy bits wouldn't hurt. It's a national park and the Palaun government charges $100 US per person for a permit to visit ... but it was worth it.

And then we went to one place between two rock islands which has a sea floor of white mud (with alleged beauty benefits, sure ....) So we caked ourselves in mud then jumped overboard and washed it all off. It was magic. The wind got up at the end of the day so we had a rough ride back to Koror where we stayed, but it was a great day. And, thanks to the miracle of USA over the counter medication, (Australia is very narrow minded about what its citizens can buy) I found a motion sickness pill that actually stopped me being sea sick! I bought a big big pack.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Finally, some gardening

We've had a lot of rain in the last few weeks and the garden is getting out of control. Better than the usual December dust bowl but we spent a happy few hours this morning chopping. Well, I spent a happy morning chopping, pruning, dead-heading and trimming ... my husband planted new things. We each work to our strengths. I like to see a wheelbarrow full of no-longer-living plant material. Is this wrong?

The roses have been beautiful this year so I'm carefully dead heading them to try and encourage them to keep flowering. They tend to go into shock when the real heat arrives, but so far so good. This orange one in particular has been gorgeous. I am in charge of dead heading and tip pruning because I have a System ... and if anyone criticises it I tell them it was taught to me by My Dear Departed Mother and she grew beautiful roses but feel free to tell me how I'm doing it wrong. That tends to end the conversation.

We also have a plum crop this year! First time for a few years. The king parrots and crimson rosellas like to work their way along the tree when it flowers, eating the blossoms. So we don't usually get fruit, but this year they must have forgotten about it and we have masses of plums. However the parrots are now having a go at them (one bite, then chuck it on the ground, they are such mongrels) so we're going to try and pick as much as we can, even if they're not perfectly ripe they'll ripen off the tree.

This is what is still left to plant. Someone (not me) has a certain fondness for ordering plants on-line and may, perhaps, sometimes, when left to himself, get a bit over enthusiastic. This is mostly pig face which we have had success with - beautiful carpets of flowers and we can't seem to kill it - always a plus.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A scrappy one

So this is what my scrap blocks I was working on a while ago turned into. I'm not super enthralled with it - I made it lots of colours but with an emphasis on green and cream - and I don't think it is either lively or coherent enough. But I will quilt it in something random and use it to cover a bed....

Other than that the week is passing by in a peaceable fashion. Some huge summer storms but we think we have the roof leak fixed now. Famous last words! The only roof we've had that didn't leak was our first house - a little square brick cottage built in the 1950s and solid as a rock. The next two were 1970s with fancy roof lines and they leak like buggery. I spent yesterday racing around on various errands but I feel as though I've got it slightly under control after being away. Not Christmas though, that's not even close to under control. But who needs presents? No-one in my family.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Still running around

I made it back home and I've been enjoying it all week,  although I feel like I haven't really stopped. I got back Monday night, went into work Tuesday then to the carols by candlelight at the local shops. The school choir were singing - including number two son - it's not really by candlelight because it doesn't get dark until nearly 9 at this time of year.

Wednesday I don't work so unpacked and did four hundred loads of washing then worked Thursday and Friday before loading the boys into the car and going down the beach. It was very nice to be back at our patch of the Pacific Ocean ... although it rained and rained and rained on Saturday. Not the usual evening storm but proper set-in rain. We went for a walk during the only clear spell and it didn't last long.

Luckily Sunday was lovely weather and we had a couple of good swims before coming back. So with this kind of week there is not much going on in my sewing room at the moment. I am staring at this pile of red and blue drunkard's path blocks I did before I went away. I don't like them much, but I will keep sewing them together and see where it takes me.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On the way home

I'm in Guam airport at the moment, for a flight back to Cairns this evening, then overnight and a quick six or so hours down to Canberra on Monday. It will be nice to be back in Australia tonight - and home tomorrow! Guam is interesting - it's definitely the US but near the airport on the main hotel strip where we were is mostly Japanese and Korean tourists. We went to Kmart this morning (why not!) and there were heaps of tourists enjoying the typical US experience :) It was great actually, everything was on sale! How is this for a tropical view?

Monday, November 24, 2014


On the weekend we went from Pohnpei to Palau - twelve hours on the island hopper to Chuuk, Guam, Yap and then here! The flying's not too bad - although there were some whopper tropical storms - but I have never heard the words "TSA clearance" before I did this trip and I hope never to hear them again! What a pain.

Palau has a lot more tourists than FSM (mostly from Japan, Taiwan and China) and is apparently very beautiful and has fantastic diving. We have only seen the main town and the government offices and so far it's hard to get too excited because it has rained and rained. Every hour or two, real waterfall showers, so loud you have to stop talking because no-one can hear you. We didn't realise but there is a public holiday on Thursday so we will have a day off then and try and get someone to take us out for snorkelling and to look at some pretty fishes. Love floating about looking at pretty fishes...

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I am on the island of Pohnpei this week, in the Federated States of Micronesia - a wee dot somewhere between the Philippines and Hawaii. I've never been here before and it took three days from Australia (overnight in Manila, then overnight in Guam, then here via a brief stop in Chuuk). It is really beautiful - lots and lots of rain so everything is wonderfully green, with high hills and jungle and the ocean out to a reef that surrounds the whole island. It is very laid back but different to many of the Pacific Island countries we go to because of the strong American influence. We have hired a car and are very carefully tootling around on the right hand side of the road - fortunately everybody drives very slowly.

Excuse the small photos - the hotel internet isn't up to anything much bigger. The women almost all wear these embroidered skirts, which I've never seen anywhere else, so I had to get myself one. They are elastic waisted on black cotton and machine embroidered in all sorts of wonderful patterns; mostly flowers. 

It's all done in zig zag stitch - I'm not sure how. The colour is not quite right in this photo, it is actually a bright neon green. Just the thing for Canberra!!! I might wear it to the office christmas party.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A gift

I made this quick quilt as a gift - for someone who likes purple!!! Aaaargh!!! It is probably the one colour I really struggle with; I don't mind burgundy or maroon and I can probably be enticed into a lavender if I'm doing something dainty ... but real purple leaves me cold. And I never buy it either, so I really had to do some deep digging through the piles to get together everything that was even remotely purple.

Not a great photo - I took it quickly inside - but you get the idea. The central floral fabric is lovely, and the recipient likes it, which is all that matters! I thought it was more of a sofa quilt but she reckons it's big enough for her bed.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best in Show

In the last few months I've got a bit grumpy with a lot of the quilting world. It started around the time of our local show, and then all the shows and markets and things ... it just seems like a constant rush for better, shinier, more elaborate, more difficult, smaller pieces, bigger statements, trendier colours, new seasons, new fabric lines. It's not really what I like about quilting - I like that it's practical, useful, technically very forgiving, and, if you want to, you can make exactly what someone did 200 years ago and end up with a functional and lovely thing you can use every day. There aren't many aspects of human endeavour where you can do that.

And while I'm interested in new techniques and learning things - I don't care if I never get any "better" in terms of prizes and judging. I love looking at other people's quilts but I really don't like the idea that there is a quilting benchmark or a goal that we should all constantly be striving towards. It makes me cross. And when I get cross ... I make a quilt about it.

Very basic squares in yellow and blue, with a triangle border. Scrappy and a bit wonky in the execution and randomly quilted in a wiggly way. And another repurposed dust ruffle! Yay!

But with a message in it for us all.

Interestingly, my husband walked out just after I took this photo and said "ooo! Nice colours, I like that one" - I said, well, yes, except for the you know and he said "the what?" I said it had words on it, and he could not for the life of him see it. Then I showed him the photo in the camera viewfinder ... and he laughed and laughed ... but my point is it's actually quite difficult to make out the words in real life. So maybe I can put it on the bed after all!

I called it "Best in Show" ... hahaha. I'm not going back to Canberra Quilters either, it's no fun when it's about impressing the judges and seeing who is doing what in the world. I need to find a group with lower standards.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


We had our school fete on Sunday - it's only once every two years so they tend to pull out all the stops. It was an absolutely beautiful day - too hot if anything - and the cold drinks stall was doing wonderfully, as was the sponge throw. No lack of kids wanting to have wet sponges chucked at them! There may also have been water balloons. My husband and I wandered around for half an hour then left the kids to it ... they walked home when they had spent all their money and met up with all their friends.

Number two son had a moment at the trash and treasure stall ... jewellery. All for $3!!! Bargain. He has been wearing an assortment to school all week - not all at once, just a bit at a time - it makes him look like a very staunch little surfer boy.

I made a few extra things for the craft stall - fabric covered notebooks. I used a combination of various methods from the internet - there are quite a few tutorials out there although I simplified it considerably. Two sizes; raspberries, monkeys and owls. Just a stiffened fabric cover, then put in a spiral bound notebook from the dollar shop. I'm not sure how well they sold - I must find out for next time. And see how the bunting went...

Friday, November 7, 2014

The road less travelled ... for a reason

When I went down to the beach last week I took a back road - I had had my eye on it for a while and it seemed like a good opportunity when I wasn't in any rush. There is only one road down to our bit of the coast from Canberra and it's quite busy. You go flat over the tableland for an hour, then over the escarpment and wind your way slowly down the cliffs to the coastal plain. The road is pretty good but it's not the sort of countryside you would put any additional roads on if you didn't need to.

Anyway, the problem is at the bottom, when it meets the main coastal highway in a roundabout. And if you have a busy day on the highway - like Boxing Day - then you can get about one car a minute off the Canberra road and onto the main coastal road. And when they're arriving from Canberra at the rate of one car every ten seconds ... by mid-afternoon there's a massive queue that can go for miles and take over an hour to get through.

So I thought I would investigate something marked on Google maps (and our road atlas) and take the Runnyford Road. It was a bit of an adventure - it took 40 minutes to go 22 km. All unsealed (very slippery gravel) and narrow with quite steep embankments through the state forest and no safety rails or anything. This photo is pretty much the only bit I felt safe to pull over and take a picture. It was very pretty. In the photo below you can see the road through the trees - typically winding down to a stream, then a concrete ford, and back up again. It would have been better in a 4WD and not my tiny little Polo :).

So I don't think it's going to work as traffic avoidance, especially not if we were in a hurry or had fractious children or it was 40 degrees ... or if there had been rain in the last five days which I think would make it impassable! I didn't see another car the whole road, and maybe two houses, so perhaps not great if you did have an accident.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Diplomatic Canberra

No, not cocktail parties and espionage - diplomatic Canberra is the name of the walk we intended to do back in July and it started sleeting on us and we all gave up and ran back to the car. Sunday was much better weather so we tried it again. Here we have the Indian High Commission - grandly done in the mughal style and left to get a bit rundown. Much like India, from what I remember of our honeymoon back in 1998.

Over the road from India was the USA - a bit of a contrast. Enormous, spick and span, fences, wires, lights and guards up the wazoo. We didn't get too close in case a Marine came out and shot us. My husband has been there for a meeting but I cannot imagine that I would ever darken its doors! It's allegedly in the Georgian style that was "typical of Virginian architecture during the time of Washington and Jefferson" but it is so well maintained and freshly painted it's hard to see it as anything other than modern. Never mind, the US gets extra points for having a male ambassador who is married to a bloke. Diplomatic circles can be very conservative, and it's good to see a bit of difference.

If I had to pick one of the residences to live in I think this is my favourite - Belgium. You can't really see from this photo but it has beautiful floor to ceiling windows and is set in a lovely garden. This is the residence - the chancery next door is a funny little 1960s building. I can't imagine there would be many Belgian diplomats in Australia? Well what do you know, I just googled and there are five of them; one ambassador, three officers and an executive assistant. Seems like an awfully big house for the boss of four people.

The Spanish Embassy has a little tableau of Don Quixote tilting at windmills on its front lawn. The windmills are about two feet high. The boys and I thought the proportions were a bit off - if Don Q got off his horse he probably wouldn't fit through the front door. 

All in all the walk was about six km and took an hour and a bit - it was interesting and there was absolutely no-one about on the leafy streets of Yarralumla on a sunny Sunday morning so we could wander and stare to our heart's content.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I saw out October in fine style - Thursday and Friday by myself down at the beach! Have you ever heard of such luxury? On Monday I published a report at work (well, my office did, but I know who wrote the damn thing and it took a YEAR from start to finish) so I gave myself a little reward of two days of salt water and solitude.

The weather was absolutely glorious - hot and summery but not baking like February. I swam and walked and spread my stuff all over the dining table and ate processed cheese slices and turned the fans on high (no-one else likes that) and watched Escape to the Country. It was an awesome couple of days and very soothing just to not have to think about anything for a bit. Weekdays during term time has a very different vibe - just me and the oldies and the surfies and the hippies and a couple of mums with toddlers. I felt happy to be hanging with my peeps.

I made it back to get the boys on Friday afternoon and buy some sweets for the trick and treaters. There were a few groups - I refuse to get involved but if the boys are happy to answer the door and compliment people's costumes then it would be churlish not to allow them to participate. It can be something for them to rebel against - they can tell their kids how their mum never let them do halloween because she thought it was stupid so that's why daddy goes a bit crazy every year with spiderwebs and chocolate bars. (And then their kids will say "Grandma! She's awesome! You were so lucky to have her as a mum" ... maybe. Maybe not.) 

Then back to reality today with two hours behind the canteen / bbq at baseball. That's number one son trying to make the jelly snakes into a more appealing display, while my husband (in the green shirt) has a deep and meaningful conversation with one of the other dads over the sausages and bacon. Now they play home and away games there's usually only a couple of teams instead of the massed hordes at Narrabundah - it's much more relaxed, even though they are taking it more seriously than in the lower grades. Not quite as seriously as my son's newly arrived American coach believes baseball should be taken... but he'll loosen up. They all do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bit of this, bit of that

I've been moseying along with the usual bits and bobs this week. Continuing my war against cooking, with limited success. I am winning the battle of laundry by refusing to engage with it at all - but I think that is a pyrrhic victory, and the washing will have its revenge on the weekend. I have parted with some of my quilting books for the school fete - so much harder than fiction! But I really don't use these at all, and someone else might enjoy them.

This is the craft stall pile - some pretty bunting, some christmas bunting, and a couple of buckets of doll pillows / fairy beds / pincushions for the 50 cent end of the purchasing public. I'll drop them off tomorrow which will make me happy that I've done something! I'm not so good at organising (actually I'm fabulous at organising, but only if everybody acknowledges I'm the boss and agrees to do it my way, which is why I avoid voluntary roles, SO HARD to keep everyone in line) - I would rather help out by sewing and cooking and turning the occasional sausage.

And I've been making square in a square blocks with my crumbs. I don't really like them so far - I've made quite muted colour choices and I'm not sure it's working. I can't really tell until I get them all together, so we will just have to see. I might just make a few more and have a little quilt....