Sunday, August 31, 2014


Somebody has just celebrated a Very Big Birthday - the train cake wasn't my idea, but it went down a treat! We didn't have a party, just lunch with a few friends and dinner out with family on the actual day.

I thought you couldn't have any kind of birthday without balloons, so got a few to look suitably festive ... and for the boys to smack at each other for the next week until I gave them the final OK to pop them all and put them in the bin. Such hours of fun out of 30 helium balloons.

To celebrate his birthday he has taken some time off work, and went down the beach for a few days with a mate for a boys own adventure. Although it bucketed rain the whole time, so not much fishing or walking ... plenty of red wine. Sounds idyllic - it would have been perfect except for finding what the rats had eaten. Not food, just the dishwasher hoses, the window cleaner and possibly the tv aerial cable. Nasty little things, we're getting the pest people in to sort them out.

This morning was cold and foggy until it cleared into a beautiful day. I took the boys up the hill - the LONG way, they were very fractious - and they claimed a rest at the top. It was crystal clear and gorgeous ... I think number one son is threatening to take number two's head off with that stick. They spent most of the walk in the ditch or hiding behind a tree - apparently you can't use the track because of orcs. I am not sure if I am immune from orcs, or if I am one...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A modern one

Here is the chopped up dresden quilt finished and bound. It is based on Kathy Doughty's modern wedge; although I really have no idea of the construction so I just made it up and it may actually be quite different. I haven't seen any quilt based on her pattern up close. Some of the blocks are more interesting than others, but I had fun making all of them!

I even went and specifically bought fabric for the centres and border. I never do that - and so it was an agonizing process to look at it all and choose one - and even then I got it wrong! It's too light and should be a bit darker to stand out from the blocks. Never mind, it is just a bit of fun.

I did an allover quilting meander because it is not a particularly flat quilt ... waves and wobbles because of all the bias edges.  The backing is another cheapo duvet cover; it won't wear very well but in the meantime it's quite pretty.

Isabelle asked what my great-great-grandfather was doing for Vines Utting Perston - they were a trading firm that owned a number of ships and traded between islands and then to New Zealand (and possibly further). I think the managers would be in charge of securing cargo and getting it on the ship. Maybe, I really don't know. It was a German firm, which fits with this guy (Arthur) apparently having a German mother ... which I think is also why his daughter and granddaughter (my grandmother) are called Gertrude. Or possibly they just thought it was a nice name.  (PS Isabelle, on the other side of the family my mother's grandmother's middle name was Stewart, after her mother who came from Paisley, so that makes us practically related!!!! I think Paisley is super exotic).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A bit of history

I did some googling to see if there was any trace of my great-grandmother in Tonga - having been there I wanted to see if I could find out any more. I couldn't; although it's not really surprising as she would have been a child or teenager - and a female one - hardly the stuff of historical record. However I did manage to find her father, my great-great-grandfather, in a number of newspaper reports back from Tonga. His name was Arthur Wright and in 1897 he was in Vava'u - according to an article in the Launceston Examiner of 8 April - where he "kindly welcomed" the writer and "exhibited the process of manufacture of copra".

The other mention is in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20 November 1902 - apparently they had a correspondent in Nuku'alofa who wrote an occasional "Letter from Tonga". I don't know how legible it is, but here's the relevant extract:

So it turns out my great-great-grandfather was the chief mover in founding the International Temperance Society of Tonga. I did find a photo of me in Nuku'alofa on my birthday - very happy, but perhaps not doing the family proud.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quilt pin-up day

Today I spent the morning pinning up quilts for the annual exhibition - always good fun as you get up close and personal with all the quilts without any crowds in the way, or anyone telling you not to touch!  I ended up not putting a quilt in this year - I fully intended to put in Coconut Ice, but I had left it to the last minute and then the week entries were due I had to go to Jakarta with 24 hours notice ...  I could have done it but the forms to fill out are a pain in the arse, and you have to put it a proper hard copy photo, which means a trip to the mall to get one printed.

So I decided not to bother and it was a huge relief! And I was in Tonga for drop-off day too, which would have been another pain. I wanted to enter one after all the fuss last year, I didn't want to seem like I was put off at all; but then I realised nobody either (a) remembers or (b) would notice what I did anyway! So it was lovely to go and pin the quilts up, and not be worried about mine being inadequate. Or banned.

See my birthday present? It's the tiny TV in the corner of my sewing table. I may never leave the sewing room again ... all the essentials are right there. I am using my old machine while my new one is being serviced and it's so SLOW. It's still a good machine and I'm getting used to it again but it just feels like dawdling. Never mind.

And to add to the glamour of my existence we defrosted the spare freezer that lives in the shed on the weekend. The seal had gone so it was full of ice and buried food. Yes, that is a chisel, I had to chisel the frozens out, wearing ski gloves. I tell you, The Fun Never Stops.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A day off

I took the day off today to make up for the last two Saturdays spent in planes - and it was a cracker of a day. Much like the rest of the week it's been typical Canberra winter weather; minus 3 or 4 in the morning then sunny and clear and still. It was so lovely I decided to go for a walk rather than a swim, and do round the lake rather than my usual walk from home. It was absolutely sparkling, even our small artificial lake looked like a proper body of water. That's the National Library on the right, and the High Court to the left.

It was a very nice start to the day. Then I took my sewing machine in to be serviced which is always a bit traumatic (how can I live for a week without it?) but then took the opportunity to tidy up the sewing room and even poke a vacuum into some very dark and dusty corners. It sounds boring but with the sun bucketing in and music on it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of quiet hours. Number one son has been home all week with a really vicious cold, but he was recovered enough to be packed off to school today. He survived fine, and I enjoyed the peace and quiet at home...

I also finished the binding on the big traditional quilt (now called Fluffy Lop-Eared Bunnies for obvious reasons). I quilted each border differently and some worked better than others, but overall I am really pleased with it.

I did feathers round the central dresden plate and all that practice on the Mauri quilt paid off! Much more even and I managed to go around a couple of corners. This quilt is for friends (who don't read this blog. Not many people do) so I will give it to them hopefully over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I got back from Tonga on Saturday, but for the first time ever we had used all our months' internet data, and when they put you on slow they really put you on slooooooowwwww.... like the bad old days of dial up! But we're into a new billing month now and I can show you some more Tonga photos. This is the Tongan Stonehenge - Ha'amonga a Maui. Like Stonehenge, the stones come from a long way away, and no-one really has any idea how they got there, how they put them up, and what on earth they are for.

Tonga is the only country in the Pacific never to have been a colony - mainly because they instituted a constitutional monarchy in the 19th century that and have been united ... more or less ... ever since. It was interesting to me because of family history - my great-grandmother grew up in Tonga in about the 1890s. I don't know much about it other than from a autobiography her younger sister wrote that was published in 1995 - and it is hard to take it terribly seriously as a book because of her strong tendency to tell everything as being wonderfully fabulous. But putting aside questions of historical accuracy, I was on the lookout for anything that might show how it would have been over 100 years ago, and there was actually quite a bit to see. The Royal Palace is still there, and a few historical buildings, and the basic shape of the town isn't much altered.  These are the royal tombs, just across the road from where we were staying.

After work one day we went and saw the blowholes - a long stretch of coastline that gives straight onto the Pacific ocean and has a shore of volcanic rock with lots of holes in it. This picture isn't very good but it is really impressive - a great heaving sea with huge waves that crash into the cliffs, forcing water up through the cracks and fissures like an explosion. And it is miles long - going all the way to the far point in this photo. It is really spectacular.

I had a birthday while we were there (and had a lovely celebratory evening with a few beers and some delicious fish. Actually we had delicious fish at just about every meal - except for the times we had crab. Yummmmm.... )  So when I got back late on Saturday night after a thirteen hour trip - this was waiting for me on the kitchen bench. Number two son has been improving his fondant skills!! It was a delicious dense chocolate cake that we are still slowly eating our way through. Nice to be home...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Another week whizzes past

And, in my case, a week sped past in the Kingdom of Tonga. Busy busy working although we did steal an early knock-off this afternoon and found the sea ... it always seems a bit unfair when you've had a week on  a Pacific island and haven't got your feet wet!

It is really beautiful, and not too hot - mid-20s at the most. I haven't been to Tonga before and I am very taken with it. You get there via NZ so I went a day early and spent some time with the family in Auckland, which was just lovely, and helped a bit with the time difference. Tonga is three hours ahead of Canberra which doesn't sound like very much but every morning my alarm goes off at 0730 and my body is insisting it's still only 430... never mind. Home again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bloody cat

I've just discovered the cat has been EATING the batting of the quilt I was slowly slowly handquilting. I knew she's been sleeping on it and I finally got round to getting the clothes brush out and rolling the fluff off ... to discover this.

I cannot imagine that batting would be good for her insides. I thought maybe she was just clawing at it but she was discovered with batting in her mouth ... not good.