Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The pendulum swings back

I find that when I've been doing something very traditional, I need to have a modern moment; and vice versa. Same with solids and prints, scraps and planned. I have a problem with focus ... Anyway I'm quilting away on that big traditional one and felt the urge to get bright and modern for just a little bit.

Goodness that is one blurry shot. I think the camera was having difficulty focusing on any particular print. But I still think they're fun. I had the dresden plate ruler out for the big one so I just made dresden plates (without finishing the edges, so they are just big round circles made of wedges) then cut them into squares. Not very scientific and terribly bendy because all the edges are on the bias and seams everywhere. I'll do something meandery for quilting in an attempt to even it out.

I hand-appliqued the centre circles using Michelle's excellent tutorial here. Mine are a long way from perfect, but the last ones were definitely better than the first ones! So I might do some more of this circle applique in the future, it was surprisingly easy and quick once you do the proper prep work. And I bought those nice plastic templates she used which made it much easier than my usual faffing about with drawing around saucers (why spend money when you can do it yourself! from household utensils!)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Simple pleasures

I've always stored my threads in a fishing tackle box - ok for a few but hopeless for lots, and they were all tangling together and giving me the shits. So I went to the hardware store and got myself some clear storage containers that take exactly two rolls of thread in each compartment, and then I spent a very happy hour sorting them by colour. Talk about brain dead, but they looked so pretty when I was done.

And Saturday's simple pleasure was a walk - we are working our way through our Canberra Walks book, and Saturday's choice was suburbs quite close to where we live, so we could walk to the starting point in about ten minutes. It's the big fancy houses, which was kind of interesting at first, but got quite boring after a while. Number one son bitched and moaned his way the whole time because he wasn't interested at all ... so we cut it short and made a bee-line for home. It still took nearly two hours so must have been useful for exercise - but we have all agreed that we prefer the bushwalks to the citywalks. Here are the peasants peering futilely through the closed gates.

I spent a bit of time quilting that big traditional quilt - it's going to take a while. Although most of the borders are fairly busy and I can do any old thing ... it's still huge. And the cat slept on. This is her evil look that I get when I disturb her napping by taking photos.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


When I was in Vanuatu my husband took the boys down the beach for a few days - lots of movies, walks and roast beef by the sounds of it - and brought back lemons. Lots and lots of lemons. Apparently some branches were breaking under the weight of all those lemons. So we piled them in the family room and looked at them for a while ... in the sunniest spot in house, which the cat thought was a bit mean. So she went to sleep on a pile of lemons in grocery bags. It doesn't look very comfortable.

And then we made lemon cake, and lemon cordial, and took lemons into work, and I made limoncello which was a first. You steep the rind of half a dozen lemons in a bottle of vodka for a week - it goes a beautiful yellow colour. Then you make a light sugar syrup and add it to the vodka and bingo! Fancy Italian aperitif, apparently best served very cold on a very hot day. We might be waiting a while to taste it at its full advantage - I have of course had a preliminary test, and it was very delicious. Quite sweet, so perhaps more of a summer thing. We will give the little bottles away and keep the big one for when the weather warms up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some actual quilting

Back to school, back to work and back to quilting ... we had a very quiet weekend with only the walk for entertainment, and I managed to finally get some time at the sewing machine. I've added on sufficient borders to this medallion to make it king size, so I spent an hour or two pinning up. It's looking good although very traditional! I don't think I'll be able to show this one at modern quilters night, I'm already marginal because of my deep commitment to scraps.

Pin basting is still my least favourite part of the whole process. I have accepted there is no way to make it go any faster so I do a quarter, wander off and stretch and have a coffee, then go back and do another quarter ... all the time keeping an eye out for cats and kids. And now a new threat - kids with rabbit poo on their shoes! Yes, we have rabbits from a school friend who is moving house. So we inherited the hutch and food and straw which has made it all very easy.

They are adorable fat lop ears; five years old and used to being handled, so very cuddly and not too nervous. For a rabbit that is.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Saturday walk

It was minus 2 overnight on Saturday, so on Saturday morning we got in the car and drove up and up and up for about 50 minutes to do a walk in the hills. It was crispy cold, with snow just above where we were and frost in the valleys. And it was wet and mossy with rivers and waterfalls - most unlike our usual walks.

Some of it was a bit of a scramble which I don't like AT ALL. I like to be able to look around and not have to watch my feet; I am very unco-ordinated and un-surefooted. Tentative-footed. But it was lovely deep in the bush and miles away from anything ... just what I needed after a very busy week.

Friday, July 18, 2014


I had a quick work trip away this week to beautiful Vanuatu - it really is stunning. And not very far north, so just a pleasant 25 degrees and sunny during the day and needing a bit of a cardigan in the evening. Perfect! This is seriously the view from my hotel room...

But I was there to work not gaze at the ocean, so most of the time was in meeting rooms and offices without anywhere near that kind of view. One morning the work took a slightly unusual turn with a march through the centre of town! They closed the streets off and away we went with banners and everything. You can just see in the photo the military band at the front. Everyone piled out of the houses and shops to see us march past ... along with a few bewildered tourists wondering what on earth was going on.

And at the end of the day we retired to a kava bar on the water. A gentle sea mist, a cool breeze and some kava ... a mild narcotic drink that tastes unbelievably awful (you have to down it in one) then makes you feel relaxed. Very relaxed indeed.

Monday, July 14, 2014

And the holidays roll on

We needed an outing, so I took the boys to a little town 50 minutes south of Canberra towards the Snowy Mountains. Not for the scenery; for pancakes and the world-renowned (well, maybe not really) Bredbo Christmas Barn. There's an enthusiastic Christmas lady who has a truly astonishing very large shop filled with Christmas things. It's all very well designed and laid out and there are some lovely things but my goodness you get a little bit crazy in there after a while. It's hard to describe, like some overwhelming Christmassy fever. This picture doesn't do it at all justice - it is overwhelming.

The boys enjoyed it and we all picked out a Christmas decoration to add to our motley collection.  It took a while, so much choice! And one polar bear that we couldn't leave behind. We're going to nestle him into the tree so he's just poking out.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An equatorial quilt

I finished this one at quilt guild on Thursday night - sewed down the binding while watching a slide show of the truly amazing quilts from the Sydney quilt show. It does make me feel a bit downcast with my little bits of things ... but not really. I'm not making show quilts, I'm making MY quilts, and they may not be great but I did every single one from start to finish to my own taste. Which sounds good, but sometimes ends with a yellow, pink and red extravaganza like this one...

I pieced it when I came back from Kiribati and was feeling warm and exuberant. To me, this is a warm and exuberant quilt. That's the thing about medallions, the choice you make on each border is a pretty good indicator of how you are feeling at the time.

I feathered it to buggery. It seemed like a good opportunity to really practice and practice so I tried different types of feathers, and outlining them and doing filler bits. It took ages and some worked better than others but it was a good experiment (and really doesn't matter for a quilt that is going down the beach to be used as a groundsheet in the tent...) You can see the quilting a bit better from the back - backing is some cheap and ghastly duvet cover that was too hideous for the bed - but I'm not going to waste all that fabric.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

School holidays ... again

Didn't it just seem like we had holidays? Do these children ever go to school? It is so cold and miserable that we are mostly restricted to indoor activities this week ... which is fine by them although I might go a bit stir crazy. Luckily the icing fad has continued! I took number two son to a party supplies shop one day and our eyes about bugged out of our heads at the stuff you can buy. We didn't even know what half of it was for ... but we bought it anyway. There's always google. So this cake was meant to be a "basket of fruits".

Yesterday we were a bit more adventurous and went off ice skating - there is one rink in Canberra, just down the road from us. It was packed full of kids of various sizes; none of which could actually ice skate. To be honest ice skating is not a skill that many Australians have, but everyone seems willing to give it a red hot go. Including me - I've got no idea but how hard can it be?  I took a couple of whopper stacks but managed to wobble around without holding on a couple of times. We all got a bit cold and wet and bruised after an hour or so, but it got us out of the house.

I took myself off for a walk one afternoon despite the weather and ran into this little guy - hasn't he got a sweet face? I think it might be a young one just out of the pouch, but really I have no idea. Could be an aged sort of particularly baby-faced kangaroo, who would know.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A slightly better walk

Yesterday's walk was slightly better in that we actually finished it, but I don't know if it was a great deal warmer - and there was certainly just as much whining as last week's abortive attempt. We went up to the northern edge of Canberra, which isn't an area we are very familiar with, and walked up and along a hill and through some bush. A little bit steep for me (which means it wasn't perfectly flat) but the boys didn't seem to mind. Off they go, up the hill, hoodies on. It was cold.

And we got a good view of Canberra spreading out to the south - not a view we see very often. It's not a gaspingly spectacular city, but this is probably a good angle. We like that the trees hide all the houses (it is so strange when cities have their buildings higher than their trees) but it does mean you can't really tell where the city stops and the countryside starts. This is looking down into Namadgi where the cold weather comes from ... and a big grey cloud is headed our way.

The second half of the walk was a bit more boring - along paddocks mostly. But there were lovely horses who were keen on some human interaction, which is a novelty for my townie boys. The walk was 9.2 km according to the book (nearly six miles) and we were all a bit tired and cranky by the end and ready for our lunch. Number two son then spent the afternoon at a birthday party at the ice skating rink! He had NO trouble falling asleep last night.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Feeling a bit traditional

I must be having a traditional moment - check out this dresden plate in old-fashioned colours. Not a lairy bright or yellow to be seen.

This is the start of a medallion quilt I'm happily going around and around, border after border. It is looking very old-fashioned; I like making medallion quilts because they are a real reflection of how you are feeling. Because you have to make design decisions all the time, the quilt becomes very influenced by each choice, and if you happen to be in a subdued, or exuberant, mood it really shows.

Not that I am feeling very traditional, as least as far as I can tell. I am feeling quite happy though, because my very large order arrived from Hancocks of Paducah during the week. They were having severely reduced shipping - so I cleared off the clearance table in my usual way. The Australian dollar is sitting nice and high at the moment (about 0.95 US) so it was a mega-bargain.

I tidied my shelves in preparation. I think I have about 130 yards (pre-Hancocks that is) which isn't at all excessive! Look at all that space, I might need to shop a bit more...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Not getting any warmer

Lordy me it was hard to get into the pool this morning ... well, not actually the last step of dropping into the pool because it is delightful and warm, but the whole thing of wriggling into swimwear and shivering down through the fog knowing you are going to have to take your fleecy off sometime in the immediate future ... it was hard. But I did it. This is the view from the garage up into the street.

The fog didn't really shift all day - just lifted a bit before dropping back down. After school we went for hot chocolate and churros, which was delicious and very warming. Next time I might try the hot chocolate with chilli in it - for that extra boost of heat.

Number two son wanted to make a special cake for a favourite teacher who is going to teach another class - and thanks to the Great British Bake Off he has very unrealistic ideas about decorating it! We reached a compromise which involved our first foray into fondant icing. I was a bit nervous but the boys had a ball - and not too much mess. We bought the smallest brick that you can but I think it's still got another four cakes in it! Maybe on the weekend.