Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A few more rounds

Rounds on the medallion that is, not rounds at the bar. Which would be awesome, to be in a bar, with friends, having beers! A few people at work are doing dry July, and good for them, but I'm not doing it. I did have a booze-free February and March because I spent all December and January eating and drinking, but that was to stop me being such a bloated booze-hound, and not for charity. Anyway here is the medallion in progress - half square triangles, plain borders, and some pink and yellow and orange tumblers.

I think perhaps another plain border and then stop, I have had enough of big quilts for the moment. I picked my sewing machine up today from its annual service and I asked the lady in the shop what they recommend to prevent thread shredding and she suggested some without hesitation - says it makes a big difference and it's a brand I haven't tried before, so I will give it a go. Fingers crossed!

I have had a lovely Wednesday - a run, some errands and some chores which were all boring - but then some unnecessary clothes shopping in the sales where I found all sorts of pretty things to buy. It is my last Wednesday of leisure because I am going back to full-time - how will I cope? I haven't worked full time since 2007, and I'm not sure it's such a good idea...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Just too big

Well, I now know the biggest size that is simply too big to cope with on my sewing machine, or indeed in my house. It's this one - the one made entirely from the scrap bucket - nine x nine twelve inch blocks so 108" square, or about 2.5 metres. Wonderful for the king size bed, but an absolute nightmare to put together, and just about impossible to quilt.

But it is pretty. I couldn't get the camera to focus on it very well - too much going on! The quilting was a bit of a disaster. I thought nice big circles would be easy, but the number of seams and the size of it meant one big struggle. The thread shredded and broke no matter what I did, and I spent more time wrestling the thing around and under my machine that I did actually quilting. So I did nearly half of it in circles then completely gave up, and stitch in the ditched the rest. Unbalanced, strange, don't care, finished it finally.

I called it "If" for two reasons; I found a pieced "if" in the scrap basket and made sure I put it in the middle (can you spot it?), and secondly because (as Chummy says on Call the Midwife) long dogs need short names. And this is one long dog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Painting the ugly cupboards

Our house is a festival of 1970s exposed brick walls and timber finishes. Timber ceiling, skirtings, door frames and window sills. We could paint it all - but actually we quite like it, and it's typical of the time the house was built, and once you paint it it's an enormous amount of work to strip it back if you change your mind. Having said that, we have decided that the ugly wood veneer cupboards in the family room are just one step too far, and we're painting them. When we first moved in and the boys were little we used the family room all the time - just off the kitchen, tiles on the floor, good for mess and quarantining those mountains of plastic toddler toys. In fact when I was looking for photos of the cupboards for the "before" shot I had to go right back in time to find anything at all.

Isn't he cute? That's number two son, and some vividly blue play dough. Little did we know he was going to use these skills for vividly blue fondant icing and meringues. Those are the cupboards at the back left - the shelf has a plastic aircraft carrier, a potty, an analog TV and a stuffed brontosaurus. The toddler years, how I really don't miss you.

And here's number one son and some creation we thought was evidence of his creative or engineering genius. The shelves go all the way to the roof, it's hard to tell from this photo. And they don't look as ugly in the photos as they do in reality, trust me, it's hideous. What we really need to do is knock some walls out (there's a weird little area at the end of the hallway, with a window, where the computer desk is) but that would require my two least favourite things of Spending Money and Making Effort so for now we just paint.

Here is the halfway shot - two undercoats of primer and sealer. It's quite time consuming because of all the little bits here and there, even when you're doing a pretty crap job as I am, with the help of the boys, who are enthusiastic but not expert. On the right wall you can see a paint chart as we agonise between four hundred shades of almost identical near-white. We've gone with White Polar, which should give you an idea of the shade. I will post an after shot in six months or so when we've finished.

I did think of doing some more today but it's bucketing down rain which makes it all much more awkward because you can't do the doors outside, and washing out the brushes is miserable, and it takes much longer to dry. Those are my excuses and I'm sticking to them! It's also the reason I'm sitting here at  11 am still in my lycra without actually having been out for a run. It's cold and wet out there...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Some actual sewing

Our child-free week is sadly coming to a close - after the Blue Mountains we came back and worked for a few days. My husband managed to go to a cocktail event ("it wasn't a party! There was powerpoint!") but I spent most of my non-working hours sitting quietly, and doing some sewing. Which is a treat, don't get me wrong. Although we went out for lunch today as a last hurrah.

My sewing is the start of another medallion quilt as I've been in the mood for something bright and unstructured. So this is the central dresden plate - or possibly wheel thing - bordered in ricrac. This is something I saw in the Little Quilts book that my Dad gave me for Christmas - it is a great book with lots of lovely ideas, even though I don't make small quilts as such. But I've been meaning to try this one since I first read the book.

You make a big circle from dresden wedges then finish it with ricrac by sewing down the middle of the ricrac along the edge of the fabric on the right side, then just turn it over and topstitch down. It is quite simple and makes a very pretty finish. I'm not sure what the next border will be but that's the fun of medallion quilts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A fabulous couple of days

The weekend started well - we put the boys on a plane to Coolangatta to spend a week with their grandparents. They were squealing with excitement (the boys, not the grandparents) but trying to be calm and grown up. Nearly succeeded. And yes, number one son is now completely taller than his father - we can't even say it's mostly hair any more.

So my husband and I seized the moment and snuck off to the Blue Mountains for a couple of days. They are about an hour and a half west of Sydney and a bit of a tourist destination, but I'd never been, so the perfect distance for a little mini break. Unfortunately it coincided with a major cold front sweeping up the country and bringing the coldest and most miserable weather for a couple of years. But, because we were in the mountains, it was kind of awesome, because it SNOWED!!! And yes, I know that is not such a big deal in most of the world, but I have only actually been in falling snow a handful of times in my life, and I thought it was just the coolest thing ever. It didn't sit on the ground but it was just so pretty.

We stayed in some swish guest cottages in lovely grounds in one of the small towns, and to arrive in flurries of snowflakes to an open fire was really quite special. But my god it was freezing. We think we are used to cold in Canberra but this was a whole different level of cold. We found a nearby pub with an open fire for a drink and then warm restaurants for dinner, and in the days we explored the scenery. There are a lot of photos of me looking like a tubby eskimo - this is the Three Sisters look out in Katoomba.

The Blue Mountains are strange - they don't look very high (and aren't in reality, only 1100 metres at the highest point) but they were impassable from Sydney for many decades after European settlement because of the cliffs and chasms. We went to a place that explained it all with diagrams but I've forgotten already, something about receding seas and tilting plates. So it means lots and lots of spectacular lookouts.

At least this one had a safety rail. Many didn't - so lots of photos of me looking like a tubby frightened eskimo who refuses to go near the edge. We intended to go on a few proper bush walks but the weather was pretty dodgy and the tracks were very slushy, so we didn't. Yes, you may question our commitment.

Sydney tourists have been coming to the Blue Mountains since the train went in in the 1870s ... so lots of restaurants, and art galleries, and cafes, and places to buy artisanal soap - and of course the odd patchwork shop! I bought a few metres for the stash from the lovely shop in Blackheath. And today we drove back a different way through the mountains and inland to home. There was snow by the side of the road and it was so windy and cold; but it doesn't matter when it's just the two of us and we can stop for coffee whenever we like, and poke around some random antique centre, or just keep driving! A wonderful practice run for retirement, which I think is going to be awesome.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A week of not much

It's the school holidays, once again, and the boys and I have spent the first few days doing not much of anything. They saw the Minions movie while I went grocery shopping, played on the computer while I ran errands (or just ran) and did a bit of baking. Number one son and I put the first coat of paint on the hideous 1970s wood veneer built-ins in the family room ... it's going to take a lot of coats.

Number two son had a sleepover at a friend's house who lives a bit out in the country - I took this shot from their front door of the regular visitor in their garden. He was huge, and completely unperturbed by people coming and going. They also have a tiny little dog that wants to pick a fight with the roo - what is it with tiny little dogs? Do they have no idea of their own actual size?

On the sewing front I am slowly making large circles in the large quilt. I'm drawing round a bread and butter plate with my frixion pen (yes, the erasable one, NOT the non-erasable one, I'm not doing that again) and then quilting the outline. It's very open but still taking forever (and I'm not sticking to the lines either...)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Let the monster wake

Even pinning up this massive scrap quilt is proving a problem - it is too big to spread out in the family room! And since we got the new bogan lino in the lounge room, I've been a bit reluctant to pin on it, in case I dent it with safety pins. The tiles are much tougher (although a curse to kneel on. My knees are getting old, even if the rest of me is in denial). So I pinned it up in two sections - did half, then rolled it up, and did the other half. I think it went OK, although there are a couple of little pleats in the back that shouldn't be there. That is a washing basket of lemons in the background that my husband brought back from the beach house. Limoncello again!

This weekend has been a bit of a disappointment - we were all meant to go up to Sydney for a wedding. Unfortunately on Friday number one son came down with the bad cold I had, and we made the call on Friday night that he wouldn't be well enough to go. I don't mind dragging the kids around with snuffles, but he had a fever and really felt quite ill. So my husband and number two son went up - said the wedding was lovely; a beautiful bride, happy groom,  lots of kids, masses of food and one short speech! Perfect.

Then they spent the night with friends of ours in Sydney and went up the headland in the morning to look for whales before driving home. It was a beautiful day and it all sounds lovely, and I was a bit gloomy because I was really looking forward to it, but what can you do. At least I hadn't bought a new frock (I shopped but couldn't find anything just right) but I did get my hair done.

So my weekend was quiet and very cold and foggy with a subdued thirteen year old (sofa,
computer games). I did a 50 minute run this morning, which is my longest ever (and I mean ever in my life ever!) Not many people boating this morning. Fifty minutes is only 6.8 km because I am so slow, but once I warmed up it was quite pleasant to be out of the house. And that shows you how quiet this weekend has been...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Not quite at 10km yet

I'm still working my way slowly through the 5 to 10 km app. It's a bit harder than the couch to 5 km - not in what you have to do, which is stepped up in nice gentle increments - but in figuring out the difference in speed. The first app had walking, and running. I can follow that, and I could tell when I was doing one or the other. This app only walks in the warm up and cool down, and the rest is either jog, steady run, tempo run, or fast run. The idea is that you have intervals of the different paces, that gradually extend, and make you run further and faster.

My problem is I'm terrible at keeping up a faster pace. It's not that I run out of puff and want to die (although that might be part of it), but I lose focus and think about something and revert back to my normal slow shuffle before realising, crap, this is meant to be a fast run, and picking it back up again. I don't think a casual observer could tell when I change speed. So while I am doing the runs, I'm not sure if I'm actually achieving what I'm meant to be doing. It doesn't matter, I'm hardly training for the Olympics, but it might take a bit longer to get to the 10 km mark.

And this morning at 10 am when I started it was a tropical 0.5 degrees! With an apparent temperature of -2.8. The fog was so thick you couldn't see 100 metres and it was bitingly freezing. I had long sleeves that go over your thumb and long pants and still couldn't feel my hands until about half way through, it was so cold. Canberra, you're either boiling or freezing, like one endless menopause.

On the quilting front, I've sewn together my green and scrap blocks. I'm not loving it at this point, but I will add a border and see if it makes a difference. And I remember I didn't love the other solids and scraps ones either, until they'd been quilted. They pick up when quilted. This is not a great photo but the cat was under there and not happy - I had to take it quickly.