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

Samoa

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

Floriade



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...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

On leave this week

It's the first week of the school holidays and I'm on leave looking after the children. Well, not really looking after, more driving them places. Number one son spent four very long days at a friend's house filming for their media project - not exactly sure what they're filming but he came home covered in dust and blue dye. Apparently most of it is in front of a green screen (sheet over the clothesline I think) and the friend is going to do computer graphics. Maybe. He was very tired by Tuesday night. Number two son has another theatre production - rehearsals every day this week for opening night on Friday. He's not sure if they'll be ready in time ... is anybody ever sure they're ready for opening night? We are going along to watch regardless.



Between the driving around, I've done a bit of grocery shopping, washing, errands and general tidying up. I've been postponing everything for the past month to do in my week off, which is always a foolish strategy. I never get it all done. Mostly because I've been distracted by scraps, which I am making into colour co-ordinated blocks this time.


The sugar bowl blocks were a good scrappy introduction, but then I decided to get real scrappy and make a rainbow quilt, because everything's coming up rainbows in Australia at the moment as we have our "non-binding postal survey" on same sex marriage. Despite every poll for the past two decades showing majority support for gay marriage the government doesn't have the guts to just legislate it, so they're having a postal survey (not a vote, the legislation for a vote didn't get through, long boring story). Waste of time and money but not a complete waste if I can get some quilt inspiration out of it.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sometimes I hate my cat

A week without a post! Not because I've been busy but because life has been quiet and boring, and there's been nothing to talk about. Working, yawn, cooking, yawn, parent-teacher interviews and ordering socks on-line. Hardly the stuff to share with the world ... although there I go. Sharing.



So this is why I hate my cat. Despite being seventeen years old, and deaf, and a bit blind, and creaky in the joints, she can still destroy the back of a brand new sofa in the five minutes we leave it uncovered. Normally there is a carefully draped rug there for just this reason. We used to shout at her and she'd run off (because very early on we shouted then squirted her with a water sprayer, and she remembers that) but now she can't hear us shout. She just scratches until we get up and push her away, and she acts all surprised - why didn't you warn me? and stomps off. Having made the sofa look like crap.



Last night my husband and I went back to the war memorial for the roll of honour projections for a distant relative of my uncle - a 20 year old second lieutenant from Toorak who died in 1917. There was no-one else around on a still night - the war memorial is very atmospheric. I failed to do it justice with my iPhone.



Friday, September 15, 2017

The flowerpots

I've finished my Freddy and Gwen flowerpots - I put them horizontally in the end rather than vertically. I was going to do a border but couldn't quite find the right border fabric, or the right piecing pattern, so just left it without one. We mostly use single-size quilts to be honest - the boys have them on their beds and my husband and I sleep at such different temperatures that we both have our individual pile of quilts on ourselves, no sharing.


It is called "The Thoughts of Others", no reason why. As you can see from the photo below it is raw edge machine applique (using fusible to stick it down, then stitch around the edge) so it is quite likely to fray with repeated washing but I don't really care. It bows dreadfully at the edges too, because the fabric cut from old shirts is so soft and doesn't want to hold its shape. I don't care about that either. I quilted it in big fat feathers because they are fun to do and I could guide the feathers to make sure most of the dodgy applique edges were held down with at least a little bit of quilting.



And on the back I dragged some very ugly fabric out of my shelves - possibly flower related? Definitely colourful. Strange lady hippies on one side, and something that looks like sad 1980s duvet cover on the other.



Overall this quilt didn't use up a lot of stash, which is a shame, but when the urge comes to make peculiar little flowers in vases you just have to run with it.
 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Another weekend

The weekend came and went quietly. I was a bit unwell on Saturday - just one of those days where the side effects from the drugs all gang up and make me sick. I think I've mentioned this before - I tolerate the drugs pretty well most of the time but every couple of months I have a shocking day of muscle and bone pain, nausea and headaches. It goes away by dinner time so I just take painkillers and lie down, but it's pretty miserable. It started two years ago when I went onto these new injections so there must be something strange they're doing to me!


But Sunday was a lovely day, starting with a book club brunch. A couple of the ladies have been off on overseas postings and are now back, so we had a bit of a reunion and revitalisation over eggs benedict and coffee. I love brunch, I think it's my favourite meal. We've set up a new facebook group and we are going to be regular and focussed in our literary efforts from now on. Honestly. The photo is the fountain outside the National Library, where we brunched. There is an extremely popular cafe in the foyer.



And Sunday afternoon I went for the usual run around the lake, admiring the spring blossoms and everyone out and about. I used fancy filters on these photos - can you tell? I kind of think filters are for twelve year old girls and people with no life but it is fun to do. I might branch out into noir-esque black and white numbers.
 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sugar bowls

I was thinking of something scrappy next up - but not sure what to do - I was thinking maybe pinks? And then, just when I needed it, Bonnie Hunter pops up with sugar bowl blocks. I'm making mine bigger than hers, nine-inch finished instead of six-inch finished. It means I only need 64 blocks for a decent size quilt instead of 144! Bugger that.
 
 

I am going with pinks, or close to pinks, whatever I have in the scrap strips and yardage. They are fun to make and should be a lovely friendly quilt in the end.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Two different runs

On Saturday I was full of the joys of spring - a nice fresh morning with the blossoms just starting out - a gentle breeze, a blue sky and a nice 7 km run around the lake to start the weekend.
 

 

And little adorable fluffballs of cygnets! They are so cute, and their parents are so fierce that I couldn't get any closer and just had to use the crappy iphone zoom. But trust me, they were tiny and cute and so grey and fluffy that I just wanted to give them a cuddle. But I didn't because mama swan would have literally bitten my hands off, it has been known to happen. They are mean birds.


But this spring loveliness lasted about two hours and since then it has been windy and showery and cold. Snow again on the hills. I thought I would go for a lunchtime run yesterday, even though the apparent temperature (taking into account windchill) never got above zero, because I don't mind the cold usually ... but it was HORRIBLE. Wind nearly knocked me off my feet, the ear infection was screaming at the cold air and then I turned onto my usual lake side path and there were waves across it! That doesn't ever happen, and I wasn't too enthusiastic about swallowing lake water with my run. So I pathetically gave up and went back to work. Yuck.

 

Monday, September 4, 2017

The baby cheeses

Remember the murky mid-creams and browns I was working on a few months ago? With some red corner stones they became this scrap quilt. I called it "The baby cheeses" because I am watching the new series of "Cheese Slices" which is a wonderful show about cheese hosted by a man who takes love of cheese to the crazy extreme. Number one son and I were watching a show a couple of weeks ago that had monks carefully turning the new cheeses which was just beyond bonkers. Praise the baby cheeses.



It is an indoor shot today because it is windy and showery and sunny all coming two minutes after each other and I didn't like my chances of getting a good shot outdoors. And the washing line was full, although I keep taking it in and putting it out again ... well, until I got sick of it and shoved it all in the dryer. Bugger the planet, it was getting too difficult. And I've got an ear infection which is painful! I've never had one before and it sucks - I went to the doctor on Thursday and got antibiotics and drops, so fingers crossed it will improve soon. Here is a shot of the quilting ... kind of loops. Kind of.



The back of this quilt is more of the ugly mid-browns in an attempt to use them all up. I haven't got close, but on the other hand I haven't bought any quilting fabric at all since the couple of metres in California in January, so I must be shrinking my stash a tiny bit? Yes?