Sunday, July 31, 2016

A holiday in my holiday

This week I had my early birthday present - two days on my own in Melbourne. I flew down this time (it is less than an hour's flight) early Wednesday morning and came back Thursday night after two days of eating, shopping and doing exactly what I wanted whenever it took my fancy!! Heaven.

The main reason was the Making the Australian Quilt exhibition at the NGV. It was excellent - I don't get to see historical quilts, mainly because there aren't many around in Australia - and this was beautifully displayed and very informative. And not many people there, so I could get up close, and peer at them for as long as I wanted, and mutter to myself about how they were made.

I also went to the 200 years of Australian Fashion exhibition which was on the floor below, which was also very good. Much more crowded, but still fabulous. They had some unbelievable clothes from the very first years of European settlement - on proper mannequin forms, not behind glass, and mostly you could go right around them and get a good look at the construction and the materials. Of course what I really wanted to do was pick them up and turn the hems over and turn them inside out ... but no. I kept my hands in my pockets for extra safety. Same as with the quilts ... too tempting.

Other than that, I just did a lot of wandering around, poking around shops, eating at little cafes at unlikely times and walking slowly, staring at the buildings. I went down Bridge Road to visit the outlet stores (and bought a completely unnecessary pale pink wool winter coat, so frivolous but so pretty), and down Brunswick St for breakfast. I stayed at the Windsor, which has spent the last 150 years happily accommodating middle-aged ladies who come into town for an exhibition and some shopping. It has old-fashioned decor, high ceilings, hyacinths on the hall tables and a nice man in a top hat and frock coat who opens the door and helps you find a taxi. I took a photo of the hyacinths.

I also went to the Degas exhibition which is the current big one at the NGV. There were heaps and heaps of works, and lots of information, and it was very comprehensive and Degas is obviously a wonderful artist ... but it did leave me a bit cold. Lots of shapes and form and movement and colour ... but not much personality, of either the artist or the subjects. An odd kind of portraiture, I think, to perfectly capture the shape of an arm (or a bum, so many bottoms) but leave no idea of the person the arm belongs to. I'm glad I saw it, but it didn't grab me the way others have in the past.

It was a wonderful two days and I must do it again. Maybe Sydney next time? Adelaide? Hobart?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Week Five!!!

Here I am already at week 5 of my six weeks leave ... it seemed like so much time at the start and now it's nearly gone! I am trying to do as many of things I said I would do as I possibly can, including the fun things like catching up with people. Not all chores, although I have been very productive again today - dropped off some pictures to be framed, went into work to print off my payment summary so I can do the taxes, posted off the boys' NZ citizenship applications (which I've been meaning to do since the day they were born) and had lunch with my husband. And went for an 8 km run, which means it's the end of the day now and I'm having a bit of a lie down with a coffee and a book. No sewing though ... maybe this evening. I would also like to record for posterity that over the last few days I have emptied and cleaned the fridge, sorted the drawer of school notices and permission forms, spent an hour at the hardware store trying to find the right screws for the new cupboard door handles, and bought a lotto ticket so I can pay someone else to do this shit for the rest of my life.

And on the weekend I made a nana net curtain for the dressing room. Yes, I use the drawers as a cutting table, they are exactly the right height. This window used to have a very ugly cheap roman blind that wasn't the right size and just got in the way. I know the net curtain is so old-fashioned but the window is north-facing, and now all the sunshine pours in. It's organza rather than net. I wanted to buy the organza with little gold sparkling stars all over it but it might have been a bit eight-year-old-girl for my husband.

Yesterday morning I was driving off to do whatever it is I do and I got to the end of the road and had to stop and take a picture of the snow on the hills - and it looks like a big snow cloud sitting over them as well, dropping more down. What this picture doesn't show is the big fat rainbow sitting over the tall white building - it was so dramatic that I thought it must have been captured in the picture, but no. I don't really understand rainbows, maybe they are like vampires and don't take a good photo. Looks pretty, but there was a biting cold wind with it.

Last night we watched TV with quilts and snuggly blankets (open plan 1970s house has crap insulation and heating) which the dog just loves. She managed to get a blanket of her own, and she is resting her head on a pile of washing (clean, folded washing, now with extra dog hair). About two seconds after this photo was taken she fell asleep and started snoring.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

More baby quilts

The second half of the week wasn't quite as productive as the first half - horrible weather for starters, which made me want to lie on the sofa with a blanket and a book. And more social - I met a couple of friends in a bar for drinks on Thursday evening, and had a lovely long lunch with a friend on Friday. The bar was quite trendy and full of young men with facial hair, but mostly lit by candles so no-one could see that I didn't fit in. Or see anything really. The sound system was driven by a turntable on the bar playing vinyl records .... apparently that's a thing now too. I'm so OLD.

The grey and yellow one is the one I did down at the beach - here it is quilted but not trimmed and bound.  Just four simple Jacob's ladder blocks (or I call them Jacob's ladder blocks, there is a wide variety of block names out there) and quilted in my favourite repeating kites. I'm piecing the batting which is very satisfying. I have a tub stuffed full of offcuts that I can't bear to throw out - but it is such a pain to piece them for anything large that I always end up cutting new lengths from the roll. So piecing just two or three bits for these tiny quilts makes me very happy, and I've used about half the tub.

This just a single block - one over-sized Lemoyne star - but I like the border fabric with its little paw prints. I might need to do different quilting on the different bits of this. I'm trying to get away with an allover pattern (and a single colour thread!) wherever possible, but I don't think I'll be able to with this one. Still, the quilts are so small and easy that it's not so much trouble to change threads. I am still enjoying making them, but I must do some binding to catch up with myself, before it becomes a chore.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

And now they're back at school :)

Holidays have finished and I am enjoying the peace and quiet very much. How will I ever get back to work? It is so lovely to have the day entirely at my own disposal, although I'm still trying to be useful. I gave up on the boring list at the end of the blog post, lists are a bit pointless, when I can write whole blog posts about my boring chores! Yes I can, especially when I've had a burst of enthusiasm like the last couple of days. 

To start with I went into work and finally changed my library books (and said hello to everyone, they were a bit puzzled to see me at first but understood about the library books). I cleaned out the spice shelf and threw out anything that had expired, or which I couldn't identify. It hadn't been done for a few years and was a bit disgusting.

I screwed the power board that we use for charging all our i-things into a shelf so it is now fixed in ONE PLACE and we shouldn't have to constantly hunt for chargers despite having millions of the things. We will see how that goes. I did wipe the shelf down too, after I'd taken this photo. 

I took all the good crockery and crystal that we never use out of the cupboard, carefully washed it, cleaned out the cupboard and put it back in. So we can continue to never use it ... cleanly. Slightly pointless, but I can feel the approval of maternal and grand maternal ghosts. 

I dyed number two son's hair blue, to celebrate the start of the new term. You can see the blue through the plastic, but because his hair is orangey yellow, it actually ends up a rather fetching bottle green. And will wash out completely in six weeks. He says no-one at school even noticed, which may well be true.

The only project I did nothing for was this miniature prototype hang glider taking over my living room floor. Number one son told me "You can't come in here! I have claimed this room for Science!!!!!" Which is hard to be too cross with, at least he's not playing computer games for once. Luckily Science ceded sovereignty back to me before dinner.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

And home again

We were right - the weather in Canberra was horrible (with a tiny bit of snow! such excitement on Facebook!) and the weather at the beach was beautiful. Quite windy the first night we were there, which meant a power outage with trees on the lines, but we played yahtzee by candlelight which the boys didn't mind at all. And the rest of the time was just lovely.  Lots of surfers in the water but way too cold for the rest of us. Number one son made a sandcastle, but that was as beachy as it got.

We went for a walk one afternoon through the state forest to a beach that has no vehicle access - no-one else there as you can imagine, and very pretty indeed. First we walked through the bush for a while.

Then on to the empty beach. It's the right time of year for whale watching but we didn't see any. You really have to pull up a deck chair and some binoculars and sit for half a day watching the sea ... which is a lovely pastime in other circumstances, but I can't see the boys tolerating it for long.

Other than walks we chilled and did very little. We watched series 3 and 4 of Blackadder, and two movies, Interstellar and The Martian. Both very good (and I had number one son to explain the science of both of them, which got me to the edges of my understanding, where we stopped by mutual agreement). One night we had a bonfire and ate enormous marshmallows from Costco. We had them again for morning tea - no fire, but if you microwave them they blow up to the size of a baby's head. Costco=hugeness.

I made another baby quilt top, which I haven't taken a photo of yet, and I'll start quilting it in a week or two. I am working on a quilt for a friend, from some of her late mother's dresses, and I had heaps of false starts trying to find a block and pattern that worked ... and I was psyching myself out because I wanted it to be perfect! But finally I decided just to keep it simple and go with a medallion so I could mix it up a bit to suit the different fabrics; and it has worked out very well and the materials were happy too instead of fighting me, as they sometimes do. So that is first priority for quilting next week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Snow flurries

Canberra's weather nadir - the dismal forecast "snow flurries" - is due for tomorrow so the boys and I are escaping to the beach, where at least it will be 15 degrees, not 5. The awful thing about "snow flurries" is that there's usually no snow, just low grey clouds, biting cold and horrible wind. Actual snow would be quite exciting and unusual.

It has been very lovely here the last couple of days without having to do any painting - now we are contemplating door handles. The ones at the hardware store are very boring, so we're going online for something more exciting in the cupboard knob department. And there are billions! We will have to make a decision on them quicker than our normal four years because we are having trouble getting to the towels (with no knob and I won't let them touch the paintwork, it's quite a challenge).

Here is the latest baby quilt - green and yellow trip around the world. I quilted the other pink one so progress is on target.  Another reason for going to the beach is that I put my sewing machine in for its regular service yesterday, so I need to go and visit my spare sewing machine for a few days. We have also got movies, recipe books and we went to the library yesterday .... and a couple of bottles of wine for me, just in case the children get cabin fever and drive me to drink. Yes, it's a short trip.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Some very boring photographs

It is quite hard to take photos of a white-painted hallway and make it look in any way interesting. So I'm not going to try - just present them as they are - I don't care how boring it looks because it took forever and I am very pleased it's done! I thought it would take two days and six litres of paint ... it took four days and sixteen litres ... we might have underestimated the scale of the project. So there were a few trudges back to Bunnings for more low sheen White Polar quarter strength. Like any bloody painting project we undertake.

Here is the looking up from the living room to the front door, then up from the front door to the top level.

This is the middle level hallway. Many cupboards.

This is the upper hallway. I know, not very exciting. But it is so fresh and clean! After ten years of kids and pets and schoolbags it was absolutely filthy. We went for a bright white, slightly grey rather than the slightly ivory it used to be, and it is much lighter. We will re-hang the pictures, but we're just enjoying this Polar expanse for a while.

Number one son was very useful and made a solid contribution with only a limited amount of whinging and not too much paint where we didn't want it to be. He didn't enjoy it though... forced child labour and all that. We're trying to tell him he is only a couple of years off part-time jobs and serious study, and this is the easy bit, but that goes down as well as it normally does with a  fourteen-year old.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The baby quilts

Here are another two baby quilts, one ready for quilting and one quilted. I'm still having fun with these. I quilted little flowers on it.

I'm trying to do a variety, for people with different tastes, but it's hard not to do what I like. So they are mostly being quite scrappy but with quite clear colours, to suit me. Oh well, if they don't sell it doesn't matter, I will take them back and give to them to friends.

The election on Saturday was a bit of a fizzer because there was no result - too close to call and lots more counting needed. A minority government is no bad thing really, because it makes them work together to get things done, but the uncertainty isn't fantastic.

We are ploughing ahead with the painting - it is indeed a great big pain in the arse because of the design of the house - perhaps even more so that we were expecting. It's not like a room that you can shut off either, the hallways are needed and quite narrow, so you spend a bit of time trying not to bang into each other and then moving stuff around so the kids / dog / cat can get past without knocking everything over.

Number two son has performances of The Frog Prince all week to hordes of schoolchildren (which he enjoys, with a bit of eye rolling) and number one son is proving very useful at painting (again, there is eye rolling). I thought it might only take a couple of days but we've been at it two days now and still have to do one ceiling and a complete second coat, so might be all week....

Monday - 4 km run, went to the hardware and bought paint, rollers, drop cloths etc, quilted baby quilt, spakfilled.
Tuesday - masked, sanded, painted.
Wednesday - painted.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Foggy and I'm still in bed

I think my enthusiasm for projects might have worn off already - it's 9 am and cold and foggy so I'm still in bed. Number one son is still asleep and number two is on a birthday sleepover so there's no need to get up.... maybe for coffee. Maybe. I had a couple of days down the beach last week just on my own, and I am fully in the holiday swing now.

So, at the beach, we have new neighbours over the back. The house fronts on to the beach road, so has lovely views over the dunes to the sea from the front deck. But the back yard has been extremely neglected for a very long time, and there are some old and rickety gums that would easily crush our house if they fell, and lots of weeds and overgrown shrubs. So when the new owners said they would be clearing all the back yard, and putting a shed up, we were quite happy with that, even though it means we would lose our green and leafy outlook.

But the shed turned out to be 7 x 10 metres square, five metres high (to fit the boat in) and two metres from the fence line, which we thought was a bit over the top. So we put a submission in to the development approval people, and let the owner know, and we will see. Because of this, when I arrived at the beach, I decided to drive in around the block to have a look at their place and see if the renovations had started yet (they are doing the house too, but we have no problems with that, it's much needed!) .... I didn't see any renovations, just smoke and a fire engine with flashing lights and people arriving. I drove to my house in about two seconds flat and went into my own back yard to find the firies hosing down the large gum tree and I got to meet the neighbour - a very frazzled and highly apologetic neighbour. They had started clearing the back yard, and decided to have a small (and completely illegal) fire, which had then got into the ivy and gone right up the gums.

The photo is from the street in front of our house - the black stuff is all burnt - apparently it was quite spectacular ("just went whoosh! in seconds!") and they honestly thought they'd burnt down the neighbourhood. So I got to say hello, and then her husband (retired couple) came down later to rake up the soot, which was very kind of him, and have a chat. There was a frost that night which would have put anything out, and the sooner they get those trees down the better - I don't think a sound burning would have helped the stability. I told them burning our house down was a reasonable revenge for us objecting to their shed, and they laughed and laughed ... which is good.

So that was the excitement for the two days - otherwise I just went for walks, admired the odd sunset, and did some sewing. The usual! And bought a heater, it was quite cold. I am still not achieving very much.

Wednesday - school prize giving, drove to the coast (via Spotlight), long walk.
Thursday - 4 km run, made a baby quilt top, knitted a dishcloth.
Friday - drove back to Canberra, had lunch with a friend.
Saturday - 4 km run, voted, washed the walls to prep for painting, went to book club cocktails and out for dinner.
Sunday - made a baby quilt top, walked the dog.