Thursday, December 28, 2017

We had a merry Christmas

Another Christmas successfully navigated. The boys liked their presents, we ate slightly too much, didn't drink too much surprisingly, and socialising occurred. I have had another Enthusiasm (remember the watercolours? Keyboard? Weaving?) and got a guitar, with a how-to book. I have always wanted to learn the guitar so now I'm going to. This has the slight advantage that both husband and number one son also want to learn, so we can egg each other on.

Christmas Eve we invited friends over at the last minute, so happily had a few drinks and chocolates in the balmy evening air. And we know it was balmy because we were sitting on our brand new outdoor table! A very excellent present from my husband's parents, which we got from IKEA on the 22nd, then put together on the 23rd (and 24th to be honest) all ready for al fresco drinks on Christmas Eve. It went together very easily, but we do have an in-house expert.

Christmas Day we went over to friends for lunch (12 - 6) and ate some amazing food and enjoyed their company very much. Boxing Day was round to other friends for brunch ... there were a lot of people having quiet Canberra Christmases this year so we compared notes on how little we did all day. Most people still do the big trips to catch up with family (we gave up years ago) so it was a novelty for them to just have a quiet one, but I think they are sold now! My husband braved the Boxing Day sales but I'm not that keen.... ready for the January snooze.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Chunky churn dashes together

I have sent off my research paper!! What a relief, and I think I will pass, even though it is not nearly as good as I thought it would be when I started, and was full of enthusiasm. By the end I just wanted to get rid of the damn thing, and not have to think about it any more. Phew.

These are the chunky churn dashes with a slightly offputting purple sashing. I was going to do Bonnie's pattern (hourglass blocks between, which makes it looks like it's on point) but I didn't have the right fabric for the hourglass blocks. I could have gone and bought some, but I am still trying to use what I have on the shelves. So I went with the purple sashing and red cornerstones, and I'm not sure that it's doing the scrappiness of the churn dash blocks any favours. Oh well, live and learn. I am on a scrappy bent at the moment so I might just stay on the Quiltville site! It is absolutely my cup of tea.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This is how I know it's summer

1. The roses are in full flush. We had so much rain this year that they are doing wonderfully - the rain and the awesomely scientific pruning I gave them back in July. It is time for another solid deadheading, which is a job for the weekend. Now I've done the Christmas shopping! Or nearly done the Christmas shopping.


2. The fundraising mangoes are here. I'm not sure if it's just a Canberra thing, but every October schools and sports groups collect orders for trays of mangoes to be delivered from Queensland in December. And the mangoes are beautiful, and perfect, and delicious, and the whole tray gets ripe at once so you stuff yourself silly with mangoes for a week once a year. Truly the start of summer.

3. The stair railing lights up. For two weeks every year - the second half of December - the morning sun comes straight in our front door and lights up the stairs. So we put tinsel on it, and it sparkles, and that's how I know that Christmas is nearly here.

It's not all fun and games though, summer, on Tuesday there was a brown snake on the driveway. The most common sort round here and apparently the second most venomous land snake in the world ... but you'd have to be unlucky to die, given how close we are to the hospital. The dog ignored it! Sensible thing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Another week goes by

Another week, and I have not sat at my sewing machine for a single second. How tough is that? I am trudging my way through writing the most boring research paper in the history of the planet, and it looms over me like a dark cloud. A rainy dark cloud. On the bright side, we picked up the new car on Friday! My goodness the technology has come a long way in 9 years. Even though it is just a basic white Golf it has cameras and sensors and bluetooths and beeping that the other car wouldn't even have dreamed of. I am loving driving it around, it's very peppy. And just so CLEAN.

That is a very bad graduation certificate photo. We bought him a smart shirt especially! That makes two times he's worn a collared shirt this year. Growing up :) We are now done with the end of year assemblies and concerts - still going on the christmas drinks and catch-ups - and number two's rehearsal schedule is picking up just as his school work is dramatically declining. They are on film appreciation this week - i.e. watching DVDs and playing board games - I was chivvying him to hurry up to get to school and he was all "Coming right away Mum! Such a hurry! I've got films to appreciate!"
And here is a photo of what I'm wearing today. It is our Christmas lunch so I am wearing green pants and red shoes. Like an elf.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Finally, the beach

It has been far too long, but I finally got myself a couple of days down the beach to sniff the sea air and check on the house. It was a weekend of massive rain in Canberra - which doesn't normally get much rain at all - but only drizzle at the coast. Which was fine because I was there to break the back of this goddam research paper! Did I do it? No, I did not. But I did something, which is better than nothing. It's been raining for most of the past week. Here is the dog being towelled off.

I only went down Saturday morning rather than Friday night because we went round to friends' for pizza and, would you believe it, she has just been appointed Australia's next ambassador to Samoa! Such excitement, and I was able to advise on important things like restaurants and snorkelling. I will leave the difficult questions of bi-lateral engagement well alone. So I lost Saturday morning to driving, and I shouldn't be too despondent about not really doing much on the research paper. I'm sure I did more than I would have if I'd been in Canberra and distracted by shops and sewing machines.

Here is Saturday afternoon and a quick walk between showers. Not really enticing me in for a swim. Speaking of awesome friends, one went on holiday to Tasmania on Friday and is letting us use her car, which has been an absolute lifesaver. It is much fancier than any car we've ever owned and beeps at us whenever anything is too close. My husband is driving it to work because he has guaranteed undercover car parking and mine is a bit dicey on sitting weeks. Yep, Parliament is back, the fun continues. This should be the last sitting week for the year ... end of year assemblies and graduations are continuing, christmas parties have started and I am very much looking forward to January. Lots of beach!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Much activity but not getting anywhere

Life with one car is wearing us down! Especially this time of year where there seems to be constant activities. For starters, we had the year 10 formal. Number one son in a suit from the op shop and his dad's bow tie. And dad's shoes. We bought him a new shirt ... thank heavens for boys. It was all very low fuss, but didn't he turn out handsome! Ignore the pained smile.


Arriving at the formal is a big thing, they try and think up the fanciest ways of getting themselves to the "red carpet". Apparently some kids arrived in a helicopter last year! We were never going to top that one. The formal was held at the Arboretum, and my son and his friend decided to get their old scooters and scoot down from the hill behind the function centre. It was very well received apparently.

In the end our car was written off by the insurance company, so we've picked out another one with minimum research and maximum laziness ... the same but bigger, because it's amazing what a seven year old will fit into that a fifteen year old won't! But even with minimum research there's a heap of fiddling around with paperwork and decisions and phone calls. On top of the usual end of year stuff of concerts and school assemblies and actually having to work for a living! I will be glad for January.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The non-binding postal survey

Here at last is the finished rainbow scrap quilt - to celebrate all things marriage equality and the fact that Australians also agree it is a good idea. You would think it would go without saying, but we had to have a non-binding postal survey, and I had to make a rainbow scrap quilt to go with it.

It's got straight-line quilting and a grey binding. I trialled scrappy binding but it just didn't work so went with the grey chevrons. I had to take a photo inside because we have been having buckets of rain and storms for the last few days. Wonderful for the garden - I spent an hour Sunday morning pulling out weeds and the ground was actually damp - but not so good for the washing.

But it wasn't raining on Thursday evening when I crashed my car ... perfectly good light at a perfectly normal intersection where I failed to see an oncoming car as I was turning and they crashed right into me. Nobody was hurt thank heavens, but such a noise, and my airbags went off, and people everywhere! I was on my way to a show at the school that my husband was already at, so he walked up and met me and called the insurance company. The other car was crumpled but driveable, but we had to get a tow truck for ours. All very avoidable and I was quite shaken up. We're waiting to see what the insurance company is going to do with the car - fix it or write it off - either way it's a lot of unnecessary hassle! At least no-one was injured. I was glad to have a very quiet weekend.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Home again

I made it back home on the weekend - lovely to be back. It was a great couple of weeks but quite a bit of work and hotel living gets wearying after a while. Especially this hotel, which was filled with people having a lovely holiday, and doing it at hours that aren't always conducive to holding down an office job. I moved rooms after a few days to one further away from the pool and bar, which was good, except it was closer to the church, which started singing at 5 am, but that was better than the alternative ... except on the last night where my roof gave up the ghost and started leaking! So they moved me again. It was very nice to be home.

Not that I stayed there for long because on Tuesday I flew down to Melbourne for the day for work. Six am flight down and eight pm flight back which makes for a long day, but Melbourne is always lovely! Except for the traffic, which was appalling. Lots of roadworks.

The work was good, and we had the chance to take a walk around the CBD, although it was a hot sunny day. I was tired by the end. The woman who sat next to me on the flight back wanted to know if I was a Platinum frequent flyer (no) because Row 4 is normally reserved for Platinum (it's not) and the computer makes sure no-one sits next to her (it clearly didn't) .... in the end I faked sleep because good lord I don't need to know some old lady's frequent flyer status at the end of a long day. Although she knocked back two mini-bottles of sparkling wine in a 43 minute flight so had to respect her for that.

Now I just have to turn my mind to my much-neglected research paper which is due worryingly soon. I would of course rather be sewing. I did take the time to make a few more of Bonnie's chunky churn dash blocks which is the latest scrappy project. They are very easy and very cute.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nothing much to report

I feel like I should be full of exotic tales given I'm here in the South Pacific ... but there's not much to say. We work during the day, then think about work in the evening, then go back to work again!

The Parliament is in temporary premises at a sports complex while the permanent Parliament building is getting refurbished. It's taking years and they've set the sports complex up very nicely. I didn't realise the committee rooms used to be squash courts until someone pointed it out to me! And the grounds are beautiful, everything just grows and is wonderfully green. It's rained every day, which is like heaven to me.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Well, after whinging that I never get to go anywhere for work, I find myself in Apia, the capital of the Independent State of Samoa, for two weeks. I am - in theory at least - assisting their parliamentary staff as part of our program with them, although whether anyone is really learning anything from my random pearls of wisdom I do not know. They are very kind and I am having a lovely time, which must count for something!

I feel very lucky to have something so exciting to do so soon after the European adventure - and it is so nice to be back in the Pacific again after nearly three years! It is really familiar, although I've only been to Samoa once before, when we went on holiday to American Samoa in 2010, but I know about some of the challenges of a small country in a big sea. Not that I have any answers to any of it ...

Everything is closed in Samoa on a Sunday so I went for a long walk this morning and visited with some fishies in the afternoon at the Palolo Marine Reserve. Walking distance from the hotel, and just magical at high tide. Floating around looking at pretty little fish in water as warm as a bathtub! I have missed it. A lot.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Free man on Sunday

Here is me going back to scrap and solids for a bit. Very simple, just scrap blocks outside large purple squares. It is OK, but I had another idea half way through, and I think I like that one better, so I will try it and see what turns up. 

I  did different quilting in all the plain squares just for fun, and a straight line down the middle of the scraps. I called it "Free Man on Sunday" from the Manchester Rambler song - I may be a wage slave on Monday / But I am a free man on Sunday. And there is my life :)

The back is more random yardage as I diminish the stash! Going great guns.The quilting looks a bit prettier from this side...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Flora and fauna

I went for another run Tuesday lunchtime - Parliament is on a break so I get the chance for some fresh air during the day. Aren't these ducklings gorgeous! I couldn't get any closer though, that duck is giving me the evils. I had to keep moving or it would have come after me.

The birds at home are much friendlier. We feed the magpies so they don't swoop us, and one of the babies this year only has one leg. It hops around nicely though, and my husband now hand-feeds it. With grated mozzarella.

The parents will come down and peck it out of the way absolutely ruthlessly - despite being smaller than their adolescent offspring they have kicked it out of the house already. A lesson there for all of us. This is me being smaller than my adolescent offspring while trying to take a stylish photo of  the checked coat that I bought on sale. Not quite pecking it out of the nest yet but can't be far off.

When I walked the dog on Saturday I stopped at the end of the ninth fairway to take this shot. It is one of my favourite views on my various walks - I like the gum trees and the hills in the distance. I can't usually stop here for a photograph because someone is hitting a golf ball right up the middle, and I try and stay out of their way. There is also a house behind me with a kelpie that barks like a crazy dog when she sees Mishka, which sets off the two fox terriers in the house next door. They are all behind good strong fences but it freaks our dog out a bit.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Another weekend

My husband went down the beach this weekend to do some much-needed gardening and check in on the place. I am feeling seriously beach-deprived but the boys had things on in Canberra so I got to stay here and drive them around. Saturday afternoon was the latest production's cast after-party - number two son declined to bake anything so I made miniature spinach quiches. If mum does it, it will involve a vegetable.

The party itself was lovely - out in the countryside - most of the time the mums could quietly sit outside and chat while they watched the video of the show, sang along and shrieked at each other. Theatre people. From there we went back into town, dropped number one at the movies to meet his friends, went home for dinner, then went back to pick the boy up. Sunday I went for a 7 km run (slow, hot, and unfortunately on at the same time as the Red Wig Run, lots of people in red wigs aimlessly meandering all over the path, I lost any remaining charitable feelings quite quickly) then took number two son to the rehearsal of the NEXT production (a Christmas show, not religious thankfully). And rehearsal was only an hour, so not quite long enough to come home, so I went to the shops and bought exciting things like insect repellent and teenage boy pyjama pants. And, if I'm being entirely honest, a really cute pink and purple check woollen coat that was about a million per cent off in the sales, and which I definitely don't need.

We planted some herbs outside, now there's no chance of frosts. If we remember to water them they should be fine. We buy the herbs in the supermarket in little pots because they are cheaper than the cut ones, use them, then plant them - or at least we are now, we never have before, so this is an experiment.

I got to do a tiny bit of sewing on selvedge blocks! There was a massive pile of them and it made about eight blocks. Never mind, they are fun to do and I'm not in a rush...


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sweeter than syrup

Here is the finished quilt from my Bonnie Hunter-inspired sugar bowl blocks. I did it in pinks, with a nominal light/dark pattern but some of the lights and darks weren't terribly obvious, so you kind of have to squint to see the layout. I was planning initially on a pink border but I think the green works better. Why have one colour when you can have two? Four! More!

It's quilted in an open meander that was meant to be a bit like kelp but just looks like giant squiggles. A bit lazy but gives a nice texture (especially from a distance ... a long distance).

And on the back we have a variety of things pulled from the stash which have been there for too long! I went for vaguely pink-ish, and some of them are beautiful fabrics which I really loved, but I haven't used them for years. Which means they are probably not going to get used, and I am using them up on backs.

It is called "Sweeter than syrup" because of the pink and the sugar bowls. Other than finishing this, the week has continued with lots of rushing around - number two son had his end of year concert on Monday and Tuesday evenings. We went to the Monday one because I work late on Tuesdays, but apparently Tuesday was better! Of course. It's a series of items that the students have put together so was different on both nights. They recorded it, so I should be able to see it later, with judicious fast forwarding to get to the bits my child is actually in. I'm a Bad Person.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Middle-aged parent weekend

Lots of busy and not much achieving this weekend, which isn't so unusual round here. Saturday was number two son's birthday, so started off with presents in pyjamas as is traditional. Here he is posing goofishly with his new marker pens. He is very fussy about his marker pens, these are Copics and he's slowly building up quite a stash.

The rest of Saturday I went for a 6km run, did a couple of hours on my uni assignment, a little bit of sewing, and made a sponge roll for birthday cake. Then I picked up a couple of number two son's friends and left them at a Korean bbq restaurant to have birthday dinner on their own. My husband dropped number one son at another part of town to meet friends at a pizza-and-board-games restaurant (yes, such a thing exists, I was not aware) and met me at yet another restaurant for dumplings and szechuan chicken. I went home and filled the sponge roll with cream while my husband brought number-two and friends home for birthday cake and sleepover. Here is the sponge roll, filled with cream, and with strawberries and blueberries! Exactly what he wanted. I'd never made one before and it turned out OK, but not fabulous, the texture was a bit weird. Tasted great though.

The next morning I made pancakes for sleepover breakfast and went to book club, where we had read (or partially read, or tried to read) The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer. I really loved this book - I knew nothing about the case at all and had never heard of Garry Gilmore - but found it a really engrossing read. Opinion within the group was divided! Except that Gilmore was clearly a horrible character.

The rest of Sunday I did some more on the uni assignment, a little bit more sewing, grocery shopping, laundry of course, number two son had rehearsal for his school performance, and then Sunday evening is wine, Doc Martin and Doctor Blake. All as it should be...


Friday, October 20, 2017

Not the photo I was planning

I finished the quilting and binding on my sugar bowl blocks quilt and fully intended to show you pictures of that ... but I couldn't take photos after work last night because it was raining. Good, proper, heavy rain that we haven't had for weeks and weeks. So I can't complain, but it did stop me taking quilt photos, even inside. It was quite gloomy.

So this is what I'm doing now - quilting the rainbow scrap blocks. I was also quilting another scrap and purple quilt but that's waiting on the binding now, so I'm doing boring straight lines on the rainbow. I actually did not intend to do close-together straight lines on this one but I was sleeping under Scarlett Johannsen and I really like the effect of the lines. It makes a quilt noticeably heavier but also quite snuggly. Takes FOREVER though.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


You know you're back in Canberra when you spend a sunny Sunday morning at Floriade. And it was a beautiful sunny morning this morning; not hot, not windy, just glorious. You can tell it wasn't windy by the lake fountain going straight up. When I went for a run yesterday morning on this same bridge I got drenched with the spray (it was very welcome, I was very hot and sweaty, the Europe adventure involved a lot of food). This is the traditional bridge shot where we spend five minutes walking to avoid fifteen minutes trying to find a carpark.

Today was the last day of Floriade - it goes for four weeks - and the flowers were still amazing. Some beds were past their best but they stagger plant them ... god knows how, it must be ridiculously complicated. Whatever they do it is clearly working because I think it's one of the best I've seen in the twenty odd years I've been tiptoeing through the tulips. Well, not actually through the tulips, that would get me arrested.

Here is an actual photo of me on my actual blog! Can you believe it. Number one son took it (number two chose to stay home in his pyjamas and invite friends over for the afternoon) and I took the traditional number of close-ups of flowers. They were so pretty.

There was also the usual weird art. We all quite liked this spider thingy.

Honey puff donuts were purchased, and possibly an ice-cream. We ran into several people we knew, admired the bat colony and the eastern swamp hens, looked at the pretty flowers and came home. I am still suffering a slight 3 pm energy slump, where my body thinks it's bedtime, and a slight 3 am wakefulness, but nothing too bad. I've done a lot of sewing and a little bit of exercise these past few days and it has been a perfect recovery time. Back to the grind tomorrow.... in the meantime these are double fringed tulips. I thought they were beautiful and very unusual for a tulip.

Friday, October 13, 2017

And home again

When I changed jobs two years ago I knew that I would miss the travel - not the actual flying places because that is exhausting and boring - but the chance to meet different people and talk about things from a non-Australian perspective and to see things that I would never otherwise have seen. I did miss it, but the new job has been so good it's been worth it ... and now the lack of travel has been well and truly made up for by the recent ten-day adventure to the European Parliament. I was in charge of gifts, bags, report writing and general dogsbodying, and it was just wonderful. Non-stop from 8 in the morning to ten at night but still just fantastic.

We transited through Paris - I had an hour and a half of daylight there and I walked about ten miles, looking at as much as I could. I can see why people like it! What a beautiful city, even on a cloudy evening in October.

We had two days in Strasbourg. I got up early one morning and wandered around the old centre of town, and the astonishing cathedral.

We had a day in Brussels, where I didn't get to see anything much except the inside of meeting rooms!  So I took a photo of my dinner - moules of course.

We had a day in Ieper to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate and have a tour of WWI battlefields. We visited the Tyne Kot cemetery ... I knew that the front was a disastrous waste of human life but seeing the landscape, and the cemeteries .... awful.

We had two days in Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) which was amazing - a wonderfully preserved old town. So astonishing. So old. During my average day, none of my built environment is older than I am. I can go months without seeing anything built before 1930, and I can name all the people that have dug in my garden before me. What must it be like to open doors every day that people have opened for five hundred years?

So now I am jet-lagged and still a bit sleepy. Tallinn to Canberra is five flights and takes 37 hours! But so worth it. This was my first time ever in Europe and it was just a taster ... will definitely have to go back.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Beautiful spring morning

October already, and it is a beautiful spring morning here in sunny Canberra - not too hot, gentle breeze, the flowers are out and the birds are singing ... squawking. Australian birds aren't known for their gentle birdsong. It's also the first day of daylight savings so the boys barely stirred before midday - allowing my husband and I to take the dog for a nice educational walk by the lakeside, and through the sculpture garden.

The dog wasn't very impressed but we love the sculpture garden. You're not supposed to touch them but it's pretty hard to avoid running your hands over the surfaces - especially the Henry Moore bronze ones. So goddamn curvy.

Then we meandered through the gardens at Old Parliament House and admired the wisteria. Eleven months of the year we are happy we pulled out (chopped, poisoned and still it wouldn't die) our enormous old wisteria that was pulling the eaves off the house but in October we kind of miss it. It's such an amazing colour. Their roses are much further on than mine. I felt bad for giving mine such a big pruning but I think it was the right thing to do - the OPH ones are thriving. Mine are only putting out a few grumpy shoots now.

It's been a good week off - the theatre production is going well, and it's my husband's turn to be on kid patrol this week while I travel with work. I'm quite looking forward to it (other than the actual travelling bit) but it will sadly interfere with my sewing time. I've seized the chance to put my machine in for a service, so I will be already to go when I get back...