Monday, November 30, 2015

Working up a sweat

Some time in the last six months our garden has tipped over from Adorable Wilderness to Insane Jungle. We like a heavily-planted garden, and are happy with any plant that will grow in Canberra's horrible conditions, but it was starting to look like the far reaches of the Amazon out there. A combination of both of us working full-time - and my Dad outrageously choosing six weeks in Europe instead of gardening in Canberra -  resulted in a bit of a disaster that we have been ignoring since autumn.

This is the after shot. Before was too horrible. On Wednesday we had five cubic metres of nice fine eucalyptus mulch delivered, and on Saturday and Sunday we weeded. And made the boys weed too, and then we carried mulch.

It doesn't look like much but that was a lot of work on a hot day. There was a garden bed of shame at the side too, that Dad had cleared back in 2009, and planted, but nothing really grew and it had turned back into a dreadful mess of rocks and grass and dirt. So we weeded it all, took out the dead prostrate wattles (sorry Dad) and the strange tree that no-one planted, then watered it, put down layers of newspaper, watered some more and covered it up with six inches of mulch. That should stop any grass growing back (at least for a few months!) and we can do some more planting in the autumn. And we will plant it densely, because we do like a heavily-planted garden .... aaaaargh.

That photo also nicely shows the level of decay in our retaining walls. A brick fell off the front steps while we were doing the front - it is all just crumbling away. Do we have a spare forty thousand dollars to re-do the landscaping? Will it last ten years until we can flog it off and retire to the beach? Can you superglue a brick back on?

Friday, November 27, 2015

The big housetop blocks

I finished up the big square housetop blocks I made a while ago. It is very scrappy - just strips from the bags of strips in no particular order - and put together the same way. It is not particularly startling as a quilt; very much a utility item. I made it after reading that "Unexpected Quilts" book, which is all about using what you have to hand.

The quilting is a branching sort of leaf thing - I wanted to make it skinny rather than fat. Sometimes I like the idea of big fat feathers or plump round curves but I wanted this to be a bit pointier. Just to see if I could really, and it turned out quite well. And I could use completely scrap leftover binding.

I called it "Flat and Warm" because when I went to attach the binding I found half a glass of champagne from the week before behind the TV on my sewing table. Yuck, I thought, flat and warm, but then thought that is exactly what you want in a quilt! Just not in your wine.

One more sitting week for the year and then we start to wind down a bit - do all those filing and admin jobs you don't seem to get time for when the building is full! It has been a busy week...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Oh Monday Monday

It's hard to get excited about a Monday when you've just had a lovely weekend at the beach - the weather was glorious and we swam like little fishes. Or possibly great big whales. The boys puttered around in the creek mostly while my husband and I caught some waves. We had our wetsuits on but it wasn't cold - happily stayed in for about an hour without getting shivery and didn't go home until nearly 5. Glorious, and very very hard to come home again.

And coming home wasn't straightforward - number two son had a bbq reunion of his theatre production Sunday afternoon so I took him straight there from the beach. It was at a property about 40 minutes on the other side of Canberra; so we got a bit adventurous and took a short cut on the back roads through some country I've never been in before. Some very scrappy, and some rather lovely. If it turns out I can't actually retire at 55, because we will be broke and eating dog food, we might compromise and swap the coastal farm with a little bush block near Canberra and still work to keep the pennies rolling in. It might depend what the boys are doing. I think I will finance ONE university degree, but if they want to do a doctorate they are on their own.

So this was the bbq location. It was a perfect advertisement for country living - warm sun, gentle breeze, lovely house with a big deck, lots of kids singing and playing games, parents on the deck with a glass of wine .... I'm sure it must be freezing and boiling and flies and snakes but yesterday was perfect. Five acres of olive trees and a big big sky.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gelato shades

I was sewing away a few weeks ago and I put my pink bobbin back in the case, next to a green one and a yellow one. It looked very pretty - pastel ice-cream colours - so I took a photo.

I looked at it again later and the colours still pleased me so I decided to do a pretty quilt with similar colours. Except that then got translated into a very scrappy quilt with perhaps pastels maybe. I wanted to do a scrap vomit quilt - because I am routinely two years behind with any quilt trends - and I thought I would combine the two and do a light pretty vomit. Although perhaps I won't use that expression again.

The idea was originally from Ginger Monkey I think, but she has gone and deleted her blog, so I have linked to someone who made it at the time. It's not the kind of thing you need a pattern for - it's just an irish chain variation. I am doing mine with 2.5" strips.

I am also making it out of strip sets. Some of the keener quilters made each scrap block from 49 different carefully cut squares - with the aim of not using a fabric twice in the whole quilt - but I'm not going to do that, that would be crazy. So it's not as scrappy as it could be, but I like the look overall.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It rained

We got a rainy week AND a damp weekend; not at all like Canberra. I was woken up by a massive storm Friday night - my husband snored on, as did number two son - and there were some serious rain showers on Saturday, during baseball. They have a fairly robust approach to weather, so played on, despite the pitcher's mound turning into mud and the grass getting soggier and soggier.

Eventually they called it off but number one son was less than impressed. He was in centre field without having a  single ball hit to him, and was soaked through. I told him to toughen up because we didn't stop netball in New Zealand when I was his age for a bit of rain (or hail, or lightning, now I think about it) but then I remembered just how miserable it was to be frozen with cold and wet to your undies. And how it just wasn't any fun at all, even a sport you normally enjoy. You can't see the rain in this photo but it was there, trust me.

Other than that I've been doing a bit of dyeing - a couple of batches with another one in at the moment. Mostly greens, with some purple. It's fun to do this again after a couple of years off - I have ordered some more dye (mostly yellow! more yellow! yellow yellow yellow) and I will keep going until I get bored again.

I was on child duty this weekend because it was the ACT Scale Modeller's Society annual exhibition and competition, and my  husband was involved in the organising. He also won Best in Show!!! Which is wonderful, especially because he also won Member's Choice (where the members vote) and People's Choice (where the visitors vote). There were hundreds of entries across 44 categories so it was an excellent achievement and all the cursing and late nights hard work was worth it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Too pretty for you

I don't think I have shown this quilt at any of its stages - but here it is now, completed. I was trying to stuff scraps into my scrap bin a few weeks ago, and it was completely full, so I thought I would make more crumb blocks ... and then I looked in the drawer where I keep my crumb blocks and there were hundreds of the damn things ... so I made a quilt using them.

Quite random, and not as good as I thought it would be. I used narrow strips to frame the plain borders, but it doesn't look very good. I should have used the strips to frame the crumb borders, it just doesn't work in the way that I had hoped.

The quilting is also random because I wanted to try out different things on different parts of it, as practice. You certainly can't tell much from the front. As I was quilting away I said to the quilt "You're not very pretty, are you" to which it quite rightly replied "Too pretty for you" and so that it what I called it.

Another advantage of my new job is that it is within walking distance from home - about 4 km or 55 minutes. I can't do it every day, but one day a week when I don't pick the boys up I can walk home, leaving the car at work, and then the next morning I get up a bit earlier and walk back in. It makes a nice change and is about the right distance for a walk. I got a cheerful wave from the Transact guys this week - I thought "they seem very jolly" and turned the corner to find their tipped over ute. Someone misjudged the angle on that dirt bank....

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The weekend

Number two son and I went down to the beach for the weekend - he hadn't been for ages because of his theatre production, and I am always ready for a bit of salt water! Having said that, we didn't swim. It rained most of Saturday and was too cold on Sunday, so we chickened out. We did go for some lovely walks though, and saw what they were doing with the bridge. Taking down the old one it turned out, and slowly building a new one. There is a temporary (and rickety) pedestrian bridge which suited us fine.

He decided to make panforte which I have never done - it was complicated and took hours, so perfect for the weekend. I did the sudoku, some sewing, read a book, played Candy Crush. Awesome. We also raked up at least two hundred completely rotten lemons - according to the neighbours it had rained all week and everything was sodden. Every lemon that was even close to ripe had fallen off the tree and turned into a smelly grotty pile of green mould. That we had to pick up. Ewwwwwww. Anyway, here is the panforte. Nuts and fruit and chocolate and crystallised ginger! Yum.

We went round to the boat ramp too and said hello to the stingrays. This one was six foot across and cruising through just a couple of inches of water, scavenging for fish guts. There were some cormorants who kept a safe distance, and even the pelicans stayed away.

I like watching stingrays move, they ripple and glide and wave their edges in the air. We stood on the jetty for ages and watched the river and the birds.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Old fashioned reds

I have sewn the snails together and added a border - now thinking about the quilting. All that white makes me think I should do something a bit fancy, which makes me a bit scared, and so I have put it to one side. Perhaps something very modern and ornate? With rulers? (not that I have rulers, but you know the kind of thing....). Probably as a reaction, I felt like sewing something very scrappy, so started on a version of Bonnie Hunter's Garden Party. Different sizes, and with a different sort of cross block, but a similar kind of thing. First I made all the red chain blocks.

And then, when I went to make the second block which is all scrappy, I realised that I really didn't want to introduce a whole heap of new fabrics - I just wanted to pick out some nice old-fashioned ornate ones and leave them reasonably intact. So I went with a good old favourite Snowball block with cream corners.

I am auditioning the fabrics for the Snowballs and there are a few Indonesian ones in there. And a Kaffe or two, and a few that have been lurking for years (and years) on the shelf waiting for their time to shine! I knew I would need a metallic blue and burgundy large print paisley one day... This is why I don't understand people who give away fabric when they no longer like it, or they think it's too old style. You never know what you're going to end up making that needs an orange and yellow traffic cone print ... remind me to show it to you. It's awful.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Tired today

I'm a bit tired this morning, but not because I watched the Rugby World Cup final (it was 3 am Canberra time! My husband set his alarm, but I couldn't be bothered) ... unlike everybody on my Facebook feed, which is squealing with Allblacks enthusiasm. I am afraid I support the Wallabies now - shame on me - but there was only ever going to be one outcome to the final so I can't really say I'm disappointed! Expectations were low. I will see the highlights on the news and that will be more than enough rugby for the weekend.

The reason I'm tired is because we had a sleepover for number two's birthday - just three friends and they were very well behaved but I did feel like I should get out of bed at 7 am (my husband had no chance of doing that, see first paragraph) and make sure they were OK and feed them, and the dog. Number two made his own cake to his exacting specifications - a sponge with yellow food colouring (normal sponges are apparently "not yellow enough") - filled with mock cream and iced with a passionfruit and lime icing. It was delicious.

It was a great night for a sleepover because of Halloween - it's a bit odd in Australia because it's only been a thing for the past few years, and nobody really knows what's going on. We have a few US embassy renters on the street and the week before they dropped letterboxes with balloons - saying if you are up for trick-or-treat then put the balloon out, which we did, after stocking up on gummy bears and mini chocolate bars, and had heaps of groups ringing the doorbell! With some fabulous costumes, and mostly their friends from school, which was lovely, and some of them gave us lollies, which is an interesting spin. It certainly meant we didn't have to provide any entertainment for the evening, and then when it got dark at about 8 we took the balloon in and set the boys up on mattresses on the lounge room floor to watch TV and (eventually) go to sleep.

One of the guests brought round a unicorn mask. This is number one son - he burst out at a few of the revellers in it, causing palpitations and squealing all round. Mishka the dog was out of her head with excitement - people! doorbell! people! doorbell! visitors! - before collapsing in a heap about nine. Too much for her.

And here is a much more serene photo of the rose gardens outside Old Parliament House. We had a work lunch on Friday and went to a place just in the rose gardens where they open up the big windows and let the spring air in. Absolutely beautiful (for about two weeks a year when it's not freezing or boiling)...