Friday, June 22, 2018

Frosty the snowman

It was minus five last night, and still only one degree when I dropped the boys at school .... frost thick on the ground and no buildings open for another twenty minutes! Haha, time to toughen up. At least number two had a nice orange puffer jacket on .... I looked at this photo from Sunday and realised that it was really time to retire this one. I look like a hippo in a sleeping bag. And perhaps purple trousers with an orange jacket was a mistake.

But number two was super happy with it, and it looks very cool on him with ripped jeans and converses (sigh), and it keeps him nice and toasty.

Number one son came with me to walk the dog - he's also wearing an old jacket of mine that keeps him nice and warm. He doesn't like his gloves (that he picked out himself, shopping is such a nightmare, it never works which is why I happily give them any item of clothing in the house if they will actually wear it) so he's trying to keep his hands warm. It was very bleak and very windy.

Other than cold, the week has been busy. Number one is having assignments and exams, which is a bit stressful for him. Number two had his mini-play on Tuesday night, which was a half hour mash-up / inspired by Midsummer Night's Dream (he was both Puck and Egeus). I have had a slightly crazed sitting week and my husband had an incoming group of Germans (he is currently running courses at the uni, much fun). Two weeks till school holidays....

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Autumn rhymes with boring

Here is the finished blue and brown triangle quilt. I did just stick with triangles in the end - different sizes and heading in different directions but still just triangles. Very autumnal colours but perhaps not very exciting.

I am not a huge fan of this quilt (as you can probably tell from the  name), but it is an interesting exercise in colour. I remember only two dyes - light blue and brick red - but perhaps I had some leftover black or yellow that I threw in there as well. It is definitely all the same cotton though, and it's not a very good one. God only knows where I picked it up - it was probably on sale - and it is very light and falls into a slight crinkle. It's definitely cotton otherwise it wouldn't have dyed so well, but I don't think it is 'quilt shop quality'.

So perhaps making the whole quilt of it was a bit risky ...especially then doing straight lines. It ended up really really wavy on the edges, and there is some pleating in the backing and some strange wobbling as you get to the final corners. I am blaming it on the dodgy fabric and not at all on the dodgy quilting.

Here is the back - still using up stuff from the shelves! I went with as co-ordinated as I could.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Whenever I don't know what to do next for a quilt, I pick up a book by Gwen Marston, and find something. Despite looking through the books for years, and making heaps of quilts inspired by them, there is always something that catches my eye that I haven't done before. And this time it was sticks! I am still going full steam ahead with solids. And yellow ... so yellow background and multicoloured sticks.

Time will tell how well it works. I love how vivid the red quilt is; the yellow might be a bit more one dimensional. This is from "Freddy and Gwen Collaborate Again".

We've been having a great long weekend. I have done about a million loads of washing, practised my guitar, sewed and went for another run this morning. There were more people running than usual on my normal route but I didn't think much of it until I rounded the first point and saw a big "finish" banner with people standing on either side cheering! It was the Sri Chimnoy, and I went through the finish barrier (it was across the whole path) with people clapping but I'd only run 300m at that point. Bit awkward.

And that hanging thing I thought was a bell actually is a bell. It didn't have a clapper, but today they had a solid pipe of wood supported by a sling at both ends hanging from the roof of the pavilion, and they swung it forward onto the bell a bit like a battering ram. It made a lovely rounded deep bell noise.

Last night we went round to friends for dinner, which was lovely, and met their two new dogs. One is a lovely Tibetan spaniel with a fluffy tail, and one is a little fat black pug dog. Number two son thought she was lovely, and it seemed to be entirely mutual. Funny little creatures (both of them).

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Another long weekend

Someone at work sent this around yesterday ... we take our laughs where we can find them in our office. It's the long weekend but we're not going anywhere - raining and cold today and I don't have any enthusiasm for anything new or exciting.

I went for a slow damp run this morning around the lake. All the carp had their little mouths out of the water. There were hundreds of them - backs and tails showing - and then sucking at the air. Is this normal carp behaviour? I thought they were going to kill them all a while back with carp herpes (or "cerpes" as number two calls it, apparently they did a noxious species unit last term) but if they did infect them it's not working. Unless this was the literal last gasp of hundreds of dying carp?

The chinese gardens have a new little pavilion with an excellently gorgeous bell. At least I think it's a bell, it could be an ornamental large hanging thing. I know absolutely nothing about it, and I don't care enough to google, but it was very pretty, and looked good with the last of the autumn leaves and the grey sky.

I ran for 3.2 km which isn't very far at all; it's taking ages to get fitness back after the broken toe. I should go more I should practice the guitar more, do some more weaving, get back into dressmaking, try something from the recipe books and watch a Handmaid's Tale. Today I would be happy just to cook dinner and get the washing dry.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Cold and sleety

It's a cold and dark and rainy afternoon, and we are hunkering down very pleasantly. I have paid the bills, and the boys are drifting around because we have three hours of "device free time" before dinner and they act like the world is coming to an end. Number two son has put his dressing gown back on  - my husband thinks he looks like he's in some English club but I think he looks like a grumpy homeless man.  I have told number one son to tidy up the stationery and pen drawer by the computer so he has pretended deafness and vanished upstairs, which is what I wanted.

I have been sewing on with solids - this is pink and yellow. It is very pretty and bright and not at all like the outside scenery. I'm using as much as I can from the scrap bin.

Here is the view walking up to my work on Wednesday morning. I quite like parking in the overflow carpark and having a stroll before the day starts. It's only about ten minutes but some days that is all I get in the fresh air...this was Parliament House slowly emerging from the fog. Politicians in the Mist.

My husband has just shared with the children the photo of his graduate year that was in the Department of Defence newsletter when they all started in 1988. Amazing what the graduates thought was appropriate office wear - many of the women are in dirndls and sensible sandals - and only two of the guys are in suits. They all look about twelve years old, and very happy to be making $18,000 a year.

I asked who one of them was who looked familiar but I have never met him - "that's Ian!! He hated Canberra and left within a year ... but we have his saucepans." Yes, thirty years later, we are still cooking with the secondhand saucepans of a failed defence graduate. And, apparently, his baking trays. I don't know why I'm surprised - our main dinner set is one that my husband put together at much the same time .... with his whole family saving up coupons from Coles and swapping them a plate at a time. I feel like it was back in the Jurassic, when stuff was expensive and hard to get.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Long weekend

We had a long weekend in Canberra for some random reason that escapes me now - the last couple of years we've had a holiday in September which has now moved to May. All gratefully accepted of course ... and I went down the beach. It was cold and cloudy but still very pleasant indeed. For something different, this is a moonlit beachscape.

I pinned up three quilts, and used up batting scraps. I normally can't be bothered sewing them together but they're bursting out of the cupboards so it was time to use them up. I hand stitch them together actually on the floor in a very large tacking stitch. It doesn't take very long at all, just a bit backbreaking.

I also practised on my guitar, although I'm still hopeless. I'm sure it takes me way longer to learn anything that it used to - I just can't seem to remember the chords!!! At least my fingers are getting callused, and it's no longer so painful.

Here are some very keen surfers. I wasn't tempted to swim at all, it was freezing. But apparently a decent swell. There was a lot of haze from hazard reduction burns. I like a hazard reduction burn because our little beachside town could, in theory, burn down in any summer. It's not very likely but there are not many places you can say won't burn, and the Tathra fires were a bit scary. But it made for a smokey weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Xavier Mertz

Remember the pastel solids I was making? It turned into this quilt, called "Xavier Mertz".

I got a bit arty with the photography and took one of it on a chair.

And one hanging off a tree. I'm not sure if that is entirely successful.

The quilting is baptist fans in the middle, and a squiggly thing with pea pods around the outside. I think I like the denser quilting better ... the idea was to give it some definition because it's all very similar across the quilt, but it may not have worked.

I called it Xavier Mertz after the explorer, because it was one of those coincidence things where you never hear of a person then hear about them half a dozen times in a week. It started off when I was listening to a Andy Irvine album (I saw him at the folk festival) and he has a song about Douglas Mawson, then I went to Hobart and went past the replica Mawson's Hut a few times and there were things about the expedition in the information centre, and then it came up on a quiz in the newspaper and I was the only one that knew it! So the quilt is Xavier Mertz ... and it looks a little bit snowy and icy. Maybe.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday in boring and unnecessary detail

I woke up at ten past nine and had muesli and two cups of coffee for breakfast. My husband went to the farmer's markets. I didn't notice he had left for the spare bed about four in the morning. We had people over for curry and red wine last night and he said he didn't sleep well.

After breakfast we went to Costco - leaving number one son swearing at his computer that was not responding well to a recently installed Windows update. Number two son was still at his sleepover. Costco was busy but we hadn't been for ages so it was quite fun. We bought a bootful of groceries , spent a lot of money and didn't get home until half past twelve. I bought an eight-pack of Frixion erasable pens which was probably unnecessary.

We had leftover curry for lunch. My husband left for a scale modelling afternoon (they are building a display stand at one of the guys' place who has a lathe. I don't know what that is.)  Before he left he pointed out a little grub crawling up the inside door of the pantry and said there had been quite a few over the past couple of days.

I rang number two son and checked he wasn't outstaying his welcome. I rang him again ten minutes later when his school weekly email came in and there was an overdue assignment. I said if he hadn't handed it in I would come and get him right now. He said it was a group assignment and one of the other people was handing in the paperwork. I decided to let him go unpunished. For now.

I sewed on my blue and brown quilt while number one swore at his computer, and the dog and the cat slept. After half an hour he asked if we could go for a driving lesson. We drove to our usual deserted carpark and practiced starting and turning. Neither of us knew how you are meant to turn the steering wheel so we googled it and watched a truly excellent video by an Irish driving instructor called Donald. We are now both much better at going around corners.

When we got home I pointed out the grubs to number one son. He said he thought it was from the bottom drawer (plastics and empty jars) so pulled it out and put it in the middle of the kitchen floor. There were no grubs underneath.

I went for a run. I saw four people I knew and waved at them. It took them a noticeably long time to recognise me. I do not think that people expect me to be a runner. I am quite fat. It was cold, but I was fine (fat = warm).

When I got home, number two son was there. He was falling asleep on the sofa, with a temperature. I asked him why he didn't come earlier if he was feeling so sick but I couldn't be too cross because he was quite clearly unwell. He went to bed.

We had leftover curry for dinner. It took my husband and I several minutes to get the drawer back into the cupboard. The grubs were in the pistachios. We threw out several other food items. My husband took in two baskets of washing, and hung out another one. I folded six baskets of washing and watched the news. I thought Meghan's dress was too simple, but I liked the veil. I refused to share my mother's day chocolates.

At the moment I am writing my blog, my husband is changing the sheets, number one is doing his homework, number two is asleep, the dog is asleep, the cat is asleep. Soon I will go and watch the new adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Ordeal by Innocence". I do not think it as good as previous ones. Several key characters are different from the book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Blues and browns

Here is what I am working on at the moment. It is literally a two-colour quilt, even though there are dozens of colours in it, because I dyed all of them myself from two colours. So I know it's two colours, even though it looks like heaps. The two original colours are a light blue - close to the one on the right, and a brick red. I am just doing different sized triangles at the moment - I might mix it up a bit down the track but I probably won't.

It was cold and rainy and windy over the weekend. I went for a run (a slow walk/run) on Saturday afternoon and the sun broke through very dark grey clouds briefly, and the wind died right away. For a few minutes it was lovely ... unlike the rest of the weekend.

But it didn't bother me, because this is a picture of my Mother's Day. A selection of chocolate, as requested, and a decent library book, and some peace and quiet. The wind was howling outside so this was extra nice...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Finished my lemoyne stars

And here is part two of the white-with-scraps ... the lemoyne stars. Points chopped off, no thought given to the colours and bordered with a random print.

I thought there were too many seams to do complex quilting, so went with a design that avoided the seams altogether. Circles in each of the squares joined together by a straight line. I called it "Please disregard my previous email" because my binding was being interrupted by having to respond to work things, and perhaps I wasn't always sending the right email to the right person. Oooops.

Winter has hit with a vengeance, which is a sudden sharp change, and one I possibly wasn't prepared for. I had to work late a couple of nights this week after not being outside all day, so left the building at 8.30 Thursday evening feeling  very grumpy and sorry for myself .... to be hit by two degrees and pelting sleety rain. I stomped to the car feeling very hard done by indeed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

48 hour beach escape

I quietly snuck off to the beach on Friday afternoon to get a fix of salt water, blue skies and a bit of much-needed serenity. I did ask if either of the kids wanted to come, but they didn't, so I just left. Ahhhh the peace and the quiet. It was absolutely lovely autumn weather - these are the poplars lining the road outside Braidwood.

I did intend to do some sewing and other useful things, but I ended up going for a couple of very long walks, and then I spent Saturday afternoon lying on the sofa, in the sun, with a book. All afternoon. Before cheese and crackers for dinner, and season two of The Durrells. Have you ever heard of such hedonism?
The water was too cold for me to think about swimming, even with a wetsuit. I paddled, and other people were in there enjoying themselves, but I couldn't be bothered. It was a very lethargic escape. We are back into the joys of budget week this week - I myself am not involved thank heavens but Parliament House is full of excited people....

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sunset (with dog poo bag)

Here is a pretty sunset from Sunday evening. There had been a storm earlier, with hail and lots of rain (finally) but it cleared away into this pretty sky. I was trying to take number one son for a very overdue driving lesson but we gave it up after twenty minutes when the hail started. We haven't quite made it out of a big parking lot yet ... still concentrating on changing gears and turning corners at the same time. It is awkward.

Here he is holding a dog poo bag soulfully in one hand and a small fluffy dog on a lead in the other. I told him to gaze atmospherically at the sunset and this is what I got.

The weekend was spent mostly at home very quietly, which we were all quite grateful for. My husband had to go to the airport on Sunday to meet overseas participants for a course he's running, followed by lunch at the relevant embassy, but I didn't feel a lot of sympathy for working on a Sunday because I am not sure if "lunch at the embassy" is actually work. I went to book club - the book was "The girl with all the gifts" which most of us liked, but I didn't. It is actually quite a good book but it is zombie-themed and frankly it was too squishy for me. Too much eating of intestines and hiding in ceilings ... nothing wrong with the book itself but not my kind of thing.

I also did some fabric tidying. Having reduced my print fabrics from four cubbyholes to two, I am now on a mission to do the same with the hand dyed solids. I have three partially filled cubbyholes of solids, and on the weekend I took them out of colour order and arranged them in random order to get more inspiration. The plan was that there would be unexpected colours next to each other and I would get lots of ideas for new things. Instead it just looks like a complete mess ... but at least they are neatly folded now and I know what I have.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sixteen patch scrap

I have quilted and bound the sixteen patch scrap quilt and called it "Propping up the bar". Wishful thinking I suppose. The quilting is very boring straight lines, and you can see that the colour wash is more optimistic than real. I didn't really have the right mix of colours to gradate it properly.

But it was a very good way to use up one of the strip scrap bags and it makes quite a pretty quilt for something that hasn't had any thought put into it at all! It is nice to get something finished finally. I haven't had much time for quilting, but I potter away for twenty minutes or so at a time, and I get there in the end.

After deleting Candy Crush I have now gone and installed Farmville 2 which is proving to be just as much of a time suck!!! I have no self control. It is not very good though, and I should get bored of it quite quickly. Honestly, what is wrong with me that I spend the tiny amount of spare time I get doing something so completely pointless.  Yet another character flaw. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

And the beach

My sister and her two boys came over from Auckland to visit us when we got back from Sydney which has been lovely. We've shown them the good Canberra things (Questacon, the arboretum, IKEA) and we dragged them down to the coast to show them our particular piece of Australian coastline.

The weather has been glorious for their visit; not too hot, just best sparkling autumn.  We all went for swims because the weather was so lovely ... but it was a bit deceptive. The water was clear and pretty and very very cold. I was OK in a wetsuit but nobody stayed in for very long, not even the seven year old.

My sister and I dragged them on various walks which they reacted to with the kind of special enthusiasm shown by teenage boys for walks with their mothers. And seven year old boys too. The older three have been plugged into various devices for as much of the time as we let them. The youngest one still likes playgrounds but there's not much common ground .... except for ice-creams and chocolate biscuits. That gets them all interested.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

And Sydney

The boys and I had a lovely few days in Sydney being tourists. We stayed a suburb or two out of town - about a twenty minute bus ride to the CBD - which meant we could have a decent two bedroom apartment with a kitchen instead of all being crammed into one hotel room. One room is not good for family happiness.  And a bus is tolerable when it's a different city and there's no work (or school) at the other end.

This is the sun setting over Darling Harbour. The first evening we were there we took a bus down to Circular Quay, then a ferry round to Darling Harbour. It's a good ferry ride because it's just public transport (so not too expensive) but it goes out past the Opera House, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then over to Luna Park and a couple of other stops before Darling Harbour. Quite coincidentally it was a beautiful evening with lovely orange western light on all the tall buildings. Very very tall buildings. We felt very small town people.

Number one son has an eye for engineering and kept noticing things like glass lifts and peculiar balconies and odd features forty stories up. We spent a bit of time standing in the street like country folk staring up at the amazing sights. I think it's good for them to practice being uncool for when they're older.

This is the hill outside the observatory - we enjoyed that and the Museum of Sydney that had the history from the first Fleet and how Sydney grew. I don't know any of this stuff of course so we could be well informed and then stop for chocolate brownies when we got tired. I think we all find historical things quite fascinating because the built environment of Canberra is so recent.

The highlight of the Botanic Gardens was the pond with eels in it. Lots of native eels - apparently they wiggle over the grass to get there when the pond periodically gets drained. I found this revolting, the boys thought it was fascinating, so I read the botanical labels on the trees and shrubs while they watched the eels in the hope that one of them would eat a duckling. Which apparently happens ... but not when we were there. Boys.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hobart and Perth

As predicted, Hobart was cold and rainy ... but still very pretty.  This is the obligatory shot of Salamanca Place - overcast but still great. I snuck out for an excellent bacon and egg pie at lunchtime.

We did a day's work in Hobart on Thursday then flew on to Perth (3000km, six hours, two flights) which was long but reasonably uneventful except for an undignified dash through Melbourne airport to catch the connecting flight. Luckily the two members of Parliament with me were reasonably athletic and wearing flat shoes. This is not always the case. The hosties brought us extra wine.

Perth was glorious as always - one day I will get back for more than twenty four hours - the weather was just lovely. Clear and warm and the city sparkled. Because of the time zone change I woke up super early on Saturday morning so had time to have a wander around before the flight back to Canberra. I went up to Kings Park and looked back at the city - it is actually quite a bland city with nothing really to go "wow" about - but I could see how you could find it very easy to live here. A bit like Canberra I think.  That is the river, it is wide and flat and full of sharks.

I did a quick trip into the WA Art Gallery which was highly enjoyable. I was the only person in the historical section (in an older building attached to the main Art Gallery) - five rooms full of their 18th and 19th century stuff (yes, that is historical in Australia) and just me to peer at it as closely as I wanted for as long as I wanted. I could literally put my nose up the arse of a Rodin (Adam) and see how it was done.

The picture above is the setting up of a Thai cultural festival - it hadn't really kicked off yet but the cooking smells were AMAZING. The kids are playing in a square fountain that shoots up random jets to make walls of water that can trap you or let you through. Or just get you completely soaked....not a problem on such a lovely day. It was hard to jam myself back into the metal tube for another four hours to Canberra.

School holidays started today so I have re-packed my bag and am about to hop in the car to take the boys up to Sydney for a couple of days. We have never been proper tourists in Sydney so we will have a poke around and do anything that does not require Boats or Heights.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Groundhog day

Every day is 30 degrees and sunny - it hasn't rained in weeks - and here I am again in an airport. Same old, same old. The weather is just freaky. We should be getting cool and autumnal about now but it is just endless endless summer.

This is the walk around the golf course we did on Sunday morning. I should be starting to run again now my toe is healed but it's just too hot. I know that other people run even in extreme heat but they don't have three inches of subcutaneous fat. It's like running in a fur coat, except heavy.

On the plus side, this is the time of year we bought the house and I always remember why. Just for a month the sun buckets into the living room. Very pleasant, although it would be better if it wasn't still 30 degrees. Never mind, off to Hobart today where it is 17 degrees and rainy! I probably won't get time to go outside but I have a cardie just in case.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A season ticket

This was the year I became a fully fledged folkie and bought a season ticket to the National Folk Festival. Four glorious days of folk music (technically five, but I didn't go on Thursday afternoon, I had to work). I bought the ticket back in September last year in the early bird special deal, and I was nervous ... what if I can't handle every day? What if I get bored? What if it's all a big waste of money? In the end, it was awesome. Just awesome. Four days of folk music is barely enough... especially when it's the National's definition of folk music. It is a fairly broad church.

My husband took number two son and a friend down the beach, and my Dad stayed at home and looked after number one son, who is the middle of his first set of exams (two year continuous assessment to get a university entrance score, good god). So I was there when it opened at ten and left again at dinner time as the sun went down and the bars started to heat up ... which was fine. In my next life I will be the kind of person who props up the session bar until sunrise, but I don't think it's going to happen this time round.

I really wanted to stay till 9 on Sunday night and see All Our Exes Live in Texas (awesome, but the pressure of seeing a favourite band! I wanted everyone in the room to like them too) so I went in after lunch so I wasn't neglecting my Dad too badly. We went to the arboretum and admired the bonsai and of course the view. I hadn't realised Dad hadn't been there before - it's still clearly got a long way to go but the trees are starting to grow. And it's a great concept.

All weekend was beautiful late summer weather - high twenties during the day and cooler in the evenings. And, to top it off, I managed to persuade my husband to come with me on Monday when he came back from the beach. It appears that our taste in folk music does not overlap at all (he did not like the Western Flyers, who play Texan swing, and I did not like the finals of the David Bowie cover competition) but we could meet regularly for a debrief, some curry puffs, and a beer. I don't know if I'll persuade him into the season ticket but I am completely sold! Can't wait for next year.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Two photos of the sky

So much going on, and none of it interesting. Just work, and trying to keep track of whatever the boys are up to. Number one is enrolled in an undergraduate university course! He's still got a couple of years at school, but the Australian National University run courses for secondary school students, which actually count as credits apparently. We will see how it goes. We were very encouraging (it's free).

My Dad and I went down the beach for the weekend and it was wonderful! He couldn't swim because of a bad cut on his leg, but I leapt in both days; there was a fairly solid swell and some good surf. It's always nice to be by the sea...

And here is another photo of the sky taken when I was leaving work. I was all frazzled and cranky and stomped up from the underground car park (I had to park in the overflow carpark down the hill because I was in late) to see this lovely sky. It was calm and clear and by the time I reached the car I felt much better.