That escalated quickly

Life took an interesting turn on Friday.  For the past few months, I’ve been getting increasingly run-down feeling, and had a few random low-grade symptoms I’d put down to stress (including, on the eve of the conference I presented at a couple of weeks ago, my already bad eyesight getting exponentially worse – but, you know, that could just be because I was tired (spoiler alert: it wasn’t)).  After all, work has been flat out all year, I’ve been taking on new responsibilities, and outside of work I have a million projects I’m working on and an increasingly busy social calendar.

I’d been putting off going to the doctor, mainly because I was always too busy (or in Hobart, or in Wellington, or…) and it didn’t really seem that urgent.  But finally the accumulation of “this isn’t quite right” got big enough that I found a spare hour to go to the doctor on Tuesday.  He gave me a general check-up and ordered a tonne of “it’s probably not, but just in case” blood tests, but didn’t seem overly concerned.

And then, first thing Friday morning, I got a phone call from the doctor (first time that’s ever happened!), saying he’d just got the test results back, it looked like I had diabetes (yes, really – I was totally in shock when he said that, because although I’m not the skinniest person ever, I do have a pretty healthy diet, and exercise regularly), and that he needed me to come in straight away and get some more blood tests done.  So, after a couple of quick calls to colleagues to make sure someone would be in to open the Lab and let the students in, I went back to the doctor and got more holes poked in me.  He told me to come back on Monday and he’d have some more definitive results then, so I went off to work.

That evening, as I was leaving work, I got another call from the doctor.  Yes, definitely diabetes, my blood sugar was too high to safely leave until Monday to get sorted, so he needed to get me started on insulin straight away.  Except his office was about to close.  So after a bit of back and forth it was decided that the best course of action was for me to head to the nearest late-night pharmacy (luckily there’s one at Church Corner, not far from campus) to collect the prescription for insulin etc he would fax to them, and from there to the 24-hour surgery in town, where I could get instructions on how to inject myself.

It’s at times like these that having friends is essential.  I rang Harvestbird to ask if she could spare an hour or two (I thought) to meet me at the pharmacy and take me to the clinic, because I suspected that as well as a lift, I’d need moral support through the process (or at least, another pair of ears for all the information I was already getting thrown at me).  She definitely went above and beyond in the friendship stakes, as I ended up being at the clinic for more than four hours, and all the while she diligently wrote down everything anyone said, and then took me back to spend the night at her place, so that I wouldn’t have to process it all on my own.

But anyway, that’s skipping ahead a bit.  When we arrived at the clinic, there was a bit of confusion about whether or not we were in the right place, because we’d gone into the emergency department, when I should have been in urgent care, but then when I said we could go to urgent care if they gave me directions they said no, I should stay in emergency, and it was all very confusing.  And despite it being 2018, patient records still aren’t electronically shareable between practices, so I had to go through my whole history with a triage nurse, so he could enter it into their computer system, and then when I was passed on to another nurse, she had to try and track down whichever doctor in urgent care my GP had talked to, and get the notes they’d written from that phone conversation… and in the middle of all this, I got a phone call from urgent care asking where I was and did they need to send someone to get me, because nobody had told them I’d turned up…

But eventually all that was sorted, and I was seen by one of the emergency doctors, who said I probably could have waited until Monday, but seeing as I was here and had the insulin, they might as well give me some, and then, looking at the results of yet another blood test they’d given me, decided maybe I actually needed a saline drip as well, to thin out my blood a bit, and that maybe I should be put under observation for a while (hence the visit extending to four hours…)  He was really nice, though, and ended up spending ages with me explaining how diabetes works, and what the insulin does etc.

Meanwhile, the nurse was complaining about the fact that my GP sending me to them was not the way it was supposed to work (I’m not sure what she thought he should have done, given that he only got the results back at 5 pm on a Friday) and giving me lectures about how diabetes meant I’d need to totally change my lifestyle.  She wasn’t mean, exactly, but I had the definite impression she thought I was just another idiot who didn’t know how to look after myself, and had brought it all on myself.  However, when she finally stopped lecturing for long enough to actually ask me about my diet and exercise, and realised I was already pretty much doing everything I should be, she got a lot friendlier, and was racing around printing off useful resources for me, and giving me documentary recommendations.  She was really patient about teaching me how to test my own blood sugar and give myself insulin, too.  She said later on that it was a novelty getting to do that sort of nursing, so she was really enjoying it :-)  (And it did seem to be a very quiet night in the emergency department, from what I could tell – there were only a handful of other patients, and all the staff seemed to be pretty relaxed).

By this time, the initial shock of the diagnosis had started to wear off, and I was dealing with the whole situation in my usual way – by just treating it as an exciting adventure/learning experience.  It was all a bit surreal really (still is) – especially when I got to do such cliched as-seen-on-TV hospital things like take my drip stand for a walk down the corridor when they decided they needed to keep me under observation for a few hours, so moved me to the obs (just getting into the medical lingo :-) ) department to do that.

The obs department had a little kitchen for patients to make themselves food and drink, with a well-stocked fridge, so Harvestbird and I established ourselves in there, instead of the tiny room I’d been allocated, and I was able to have a (probably unnecessary from a blood sugar point of view, but totally necessary from a “it’s 9 pm, and I haven’t had anything to eat since lunchtime” point of view) piece of toast.   I didn’t think exploring the fridge’s offerings any further than that would be a good idea, given I was under observation precisely because they wanted to see if the insulin had any effect on my blood sugar…

Eventually, sometime after 10, they finally decided I’d been poked with enough needles and sent me home (or rather, to Harvestbird’s place, after a quick stop at home to feed the cat, because she’d kindly offered me a bed for the night so I wouldn’t have to be alone).  It wasn’t the most restful night (especially because every time I’d finally start to drift off to sleep, my mind would come up with another thing I urgently needed to Google), but by morning I’d at least got over most of my “it’s not fair” feelings, and was into “right, this is how it is, now what am I going to do about it” mode.

Which started with my first totally on my own, no nurses watching over me, pricking my finger to test my blood sugar (I have the coolest little gadget that does the actual blood test – it’s so much more hi-tech than what I remember diabetic kids at school having!), and giving myself an insulin injection (which hurts way less than the blood test part, but the thought of sticking a needle into yourself is still pretty intimidating!).  And then a super-healthy breakfast prepared by Mr Harvestbird.

Back at home, I had a visit from a nurse from the urgent care department (yes, a home visit from a health professional!  The NZ health system may have its failings, but once it activates, it really activates!) to check how I was doing, record blood pressure etc, and make sure all those lessons on how to test and inject myself had stuck.  She was really friendly, patiently talked me through all the questions I had, and arranged a prescription for a big box of the test strips (because for some reason the blood test kit only came with 10 strips, and I was supposed to be testing my blood 7 times a day, so they were running out very fast (especially because it took me a while to get the hang of just how big a drop of blood I needed, so I kept getting errors on the machine and having to start again)).  And then arranged to come back again on Sunday!  (Plus gave me a number I could ring at any time over the weekend if I had questions or needed help – she basically said that until I saw my GP again on Monday, I was under the care of the urgent care department, so could call on them as needed).

Oh, and did I mention that all of this was free?  Other than paying for my initial GP visit on Tuesday, a few prescription fees ($5 per item), and the first set of blood tests (also $5), I didn’t have to pay a thing.  So far I think this entire adventure has cost me less than $100 (and some of that is because I had to go and buy myself a really nice notebook to record my blood sugar levels in – because if you have to stab yourself in the finger 7 times a day, then at least you should have something pretty to look at while you’re writing down the numbers).  Once again, I am very grateful for living in a country with such a good health system!

Since then, life has been a whirl of blood sugar tests, insulin injections, and starting to get my head around my new dietary requirements (so far pretty similar to what I was eating already, other than being a bit more diligent about avoiding sugary and fatty foods – kindly Lytteltonwitch removed the temptation of the rest of the Tasmanian chocolate for me :-)).  The doctor is still playing round with my insulin dose (plus given me tablets that help the insulin work better), which will probably go on for a while, but my blood sugar levels are trending downwards, which is good (well, as long as they don’t go too low, but they’ve got a while to go before that’s a problem!).

But I think I’m going to cope.  So far I think the hardest thing for me to adjust to (other than the fact that we’re heading into Christmas, and the round of morning teas and lunches that accompany that…) is going to be the eating at regular times thing – I’m so used to just working through lunch, and not remembering to eat until late afternoon.  Now I need to have an actual lunch break, at the same time every day – I may end up having to set an alarm or something!

Otherwise, though, I think I’ll be ok.  Once we get my insulin levels right, and I figure out exactly what I can and can’t safely eat (the doctor is going to refer me to a dietician eventually to help with that, but he said first he wants to get my base blood sugar level stabilised), I think this’ll all very quickly become the new normal.  And that’s one thing about living in Christchurch, the idea of adjusting to a new normal is something we’re all very used to!  Kia kaha and all that :-)

Home again (even if I never mentioned I was gone)

Yet again, a long gap between blog posts, mostly because life has been even busier than usual for the past couple of months. Work has been full of big pushes to meet deadlines, and outside of work has been full of social stuff and the usual degree of over-committing myself.

And I spent the weekend in Hobart.  At the BC-AUS Uncon.  Totally amazing weekend, which I will eventually post some videos about, but at the moment all of the raw footage is on my laptop, and my laptop has run out of batteries, and the charger is somewhere between here and Melbourne, because my luggage got lost when I changed flights.  (Well, technically it’s not lost, because AirNZ reckon they know exactly where it is, it’s just a matter of getting it put on a plane to Christchurch… eventually…)

I arrived home on Monday night – or actually, Tuesday morning, because we landed just after midnight, and then I had to hang around baggage claim waiting for my bag to appear, and then hanging around even longer while the lost luggage guy tried to find it on his computer, and then filling out all the paperwork, and then I still had to go through biosecurity and customs and get grilled for even longer than usual about the contents of my non-existent bag, so that they know what to search for when (if?) it does turn up… so it was after 2 am by the time I got home.  Luckily I’d booked annual leave for Tuesday as well…

Except I didn’t get much of a sleep in on Tuesday, because in a fit of enthusiasm a few weeks ago I’d booked to do a class on rag rug making run by an Australian artist who is trying to revive the craft as an art-form.

Despite being tired, it was a really fun class, and (even though, as usual, I was over-ambitious with the size of project I took on) I made a fair bit of progress on a rug:

That’s not the final texture – once I’ve finished hooking in the strips of fabric they need to be trimmed back to make it more carpet-like (although in theory, you can leave them untrimmed – it just gives the final carpet a different sort of texture.  I think with the design I have in mind it will work better trimmed, though).

So, yet another project to add to the works in progress pile…

And talking of works in progress, I did manage to finish one of the two quilts I’m working on for Harvestbird’s children.  This first one, for Harmony, I’m calling “Harmony’s Flying Foxes” (because somehow the flying geese blocks got renamed to flying fox blocks in the process of designing the layout).  I’m really pleased with how it turned out:

The other one, for Millie, is still sitting on my sewing machine half quilted.  Hopefully sometime over the next few weeks I’ll find time to finish it… though I’m going to another craft workshop this weekend, then I’m off to Wellington for a conference next week, and then, and then… yeah, life is busy.

If you haven’t seen it already, here’s part 2 of the video of making the quilts:

And here’s the other videos I’ve posted since my last blog post (which was over two months ago, I’ve just realised!):

A Word Festival trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching:

Lots of random stuff, half of which I think I wrote about in my last blog post:

Walking the Avon Ōtākaro River during the Walking Festival (there have been many festivals lately!):

Even more random stuff:

Update: I’ve just had a call from AirNZ to say my bag is in Christchurch, and they’ll drop it off to me this afternoon. So more videos to come soon!

X marks the cat, and other expenses

So it seems I can either write blog posts, or I can record videos.  Doing either one seems to sap my creative energy for doing the other (or maybe it’s just that doing one makes me forget about the other).  Which is a roundabout way of saying I’ve been even more terrible than usual at keeping up with this blog.  I have been having a lot of fun with YouTube though :-)

In the meantime, life has been a combination of busy, exciting, and expensive. Especially expensive, and especially this month.  At the same time as various opportunities arose to spend vast amounts of money on cool things, various existing expensive things decided to break and need immediate replacing.

Cool thing number one was that I finally got all my paperwork together to get my passport renewed.  Which was a bit more paperwork than normal, because I took the (some may say sudden and drastic, although I have actually been thinking about it for a couple of years, ever since they announced the law change to make it possible) step of getting my gender marker changed to an X.  I am now officially, at least in the eyes of the Department of Internal Affairs, outside the gender binary!

(Hopefully I’ve successfully blurred/obscured all of the important identity-theft-enabling bits of that photo!)

It actually was much less complicated a process than I expected.  All I had to do was sign a statutory declaration in front of a JP, and then go through the process of a complete new passport application rather than just a renewal.  The most difficult thing was getting the photo done, because you have to use the paper forms (because they haven’t updated the on-line process yet), so I needed to find somewhere I could get old-fashioned printed passport photos, instead of the digital format most places do now (it turns out Post Shops still do them, in case anyone else ever needs one).

It’s hard to describe just how happy I am to see that one little letter in my passport! (Though also a tiny bit nervous about whether it will cause any problems at borders – in theory it shouldn’t, because it’s a perfectly valid passport issued under NZ law, but who knows what border officials will choose to be nit-picky about.  Oh well, I’ll get to test it out in November… which brings us to the next exciting expense…)

The next cool thing was (now that I finally had my new passport so I could) booking flights to go to the NZ-AUS Bookcrossing uncon in Tasmania.  It’s going to be a small, very informal uncon along similar lines to Stewart Island – basically just hanging out together on a (slightly larger :-)) island, doing a few touristy things, but nothing too planned.  Just a long weekend, but I’m really looking forward to it.  Plus I get to add another Australian state to my list of places I’ve visited (only Northern Territory to go…).

The third cool thing is I bought myself a GoPro!  It hasn’t arrived yet, but I should get it in a week or so.  Totally stupid thing to buy when I’d just spent a lot of money on Tasmania (it’s not the cheapest place to get to from NZ – even though it’s closer to NZ than the rest of Australia, there’s no direct flights, so you have to fly via Melbourne), but I’d been looking at them longingly ever since I started playing round with the YouTube thing, and the opportunity came up to save a couple of hundred dollars on one, so it was too good to miss.  So once that arrives, expect me to get even worse at blogging than I am now… (you might as well just give up following me here, and subscribe to my YouTube channel instead)

And then, having spent all that money, the Word Festival programme came out.  And there were so many things I wanted to go to.  And last time, when I managed to miss out on some of the best sessions due to indecision, I told myself that next time I’d just book tickets to everything that interested me, and take time off work if necessary, and see all the things.  So I did.  Including a day-trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching with two whale experts on Tuesday, and something like eight other ordinary festival events between Thursday and Sunday.  Plus I’ve got a few more free events I may go to if I haven’t completely exhausted myself dashing around all the events I’ve booked for.  So it’s going to be a very busy week this week!

And then there were the less fun expenses.  First, my lawnmower died.  Mini-Gwilk, who does my lawns for me, came in looking sheepish one day and said something along the lines of “Um, was I supposed to put oil in the lawnmower or something? Because it’s stopped working, and there’s black smoke coming out.”  Luckily, it didn’t turn out to be *too* expensive to repair, but it was a bit of a pain, because I don’t have a car (and taxis for some reason aren’t keen on carrying dirty old garden equipment in their nice clean cars), so had to beg lifts from friends (many many many thanks, Mr Harvestbird!!!) to get it to the repair place and picked up again afterwards, and the repair place is only open on Saturday mornings, which required a lot of coordination with said friends.  But all was managed in the end, and I now have a nicely working lawnmower (and instructions from repair guy about what to tell mini-Gwilk what not to do next time).

And then, because black smoke is apparently not dramatic enough, I turned on my oven and the fan unit started shooting out bright white sparks and flames.  Cue FutureCat scrambling to switch it off at the wall!  Luckily all of the dramatic stuff was confined to the inside of the oven, so there was no risk of the fire spreading, but it was still pretty exciting for a moment there.  And then depressing, when I contacted my friendly electrician, and he confirmed that it probably wasn’t worth him even coming out to look at it, because I almost certainly needed to buy a new one (and that 18 years is actually pretty old for an appliance).  And then he improved my mood substantially by offering to source a new one for me (and even better, only charge me cost + his time, with no extra markup), which was a great relief, because I really wasn’t looking forward to devoting my entire weekend to trawling through whiteware shops with no real idea of what was good vs what was just marketing hype.  He managed to find me a decent brand (Westinghouse) at trade prices, which even with his time plus the installation cost still cost me way less than it would have to buy retail (and I’d still have had to pay installation anyway), so I was very happy with that, even though it’s an expense I would have rather not had at all (or at least, not this month – though I wasn’t going to wait any longer to replace the oven – even just the couple of weeks I was without it while waiting for it to be delivered was much longer than I ever want to eat microwaved meals for ever again!)

So that was my horrifically expensive August.  I haven’t added up everything I’ve spent this month, and I don’t think I want to!  Oh well, this is why I have an emergency savings account, for times exactly like this. Just hope nothing else expensive happens for a while, so I can top it back up again…


In crafty news, the main thing I’ve been working on are quilts for the two mini-Harvestbirds (who have declared their official internet pseudonyms to be “Harmony” and “Millie”). It started off as a fun idea – I’d design a couple of simple quilts, let them pick the fabrics, and participate in the layout process so they’ll feel like they’d had a hand in the design, and, as a bonus, turn the whole thing into a series of YouTube videos.  I should have remembered that old rule about never working with children or animals though, because things didn’t entirely go according to plan.  Harmony’s quilt went perfectly (despite me messing up my initial calculations for the block measurements) – she was so excited about the idea of being in a YouTube video (suitably anonymised, of course) that I think she would have agreed to anything I suggested.  She was totally happy with the design, with the fabric choices I offered, with everything, really.  All went smoothly, we sewed the first few blocks together, and then after the kids had left, I was able to quickly whip up the rest of the blocks over a lazy weekend. The blocks are now sitting waiting for a free weekend when I can invite the kids over again to help me design the final layout of the quilts.

Millie, on the other hand, was a different matter.  I forgot just how much she has very much her own tastes and opinions on things, so she rejected my first few suggestions, and there was much scrabbling through half-thought-out sketches in my design book before we found one she liked.  Which I then had to turn from sketch into actual design on the spot… which was a fun challenge :-)  I have to say though, she’s got very good taste – the colour combinations she wanted are going to look amazing, and I suspect I’m going to be very pleased with the finished quilt. The only problem is, it’s an incredibly complex design (it’s one I had in my book as a “one day, when I’ve got time” idea), so it’s definitely not one I’ll get finished in an afternoon.   So far I’ve managed to cut out all the pieces, and sew the 96 (!!!) half-square triangles it needs for the main stars (and that doesn’t include all the snowballed corners I’ll need for the sashing stars).  And I haven’t even begun to sew the actual blocks (other than the one I quickly sewed on the day the kids were here, so she could see what they’d end up like).  Given how busy the next couple of weekends are going to be, part two of the video might not happen for a while.

It is going to be a gorgeous-looking quilt, though:

In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s the video of part one of the process:

In the meantime, I gave the girls another mini-quilt for their dolls, while they wait for their actual quilts. Once again I had one of those practice quilt sandwiches I’d been trying out various FMQ ideas and exercises on (you might be able to identify a few recent projects on there), so I squared it up and stuck a quick binding on it.

I actually reckon it looks not bad for a bunch of random practice stuff :-)

(Oh, and if you were wondering, no, I haven’t abandoned the Block of the Whenever – I’ve just been distracted by other things. Once I get these two quilts finished, I’m definitely going back to it)


Otherwise, I have as usual been busy with all sorts of interesting things, none of which I can remember off the top of my head right now.  I feel like I’ve been being excessively social this year!

Just this weekend I went to a feminist poetry reading with Harvestbird on Friday night (which was being run by step-sister, so I also caught up with her briefly before the show), which featured some really amazing local poets (Tusiata Avia being the most notable, and also the most incredible to listen to – I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy hearing her perform her poetry).  And then last night I played D&D with Gwilk and some other friends.  I was playing a wizard for the first time ever, which meant a lot of new rules to learn, but was fun to try out – I can see a lot of potential in the character (though I think Thokk will always be my favourite).

And last weekend was another D&D game, plus going out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group, and the weekend before that I went to the Botanic D’Lights festival (see video below) with Lytteltonwitch, and a stash swap, and in between there’s been various work events, and I’m exhausted just writing this, but it’s actually all been a huge amount of fun. I feel like I’m finally figuring out the right amount of social stuff that stays enjoyable without making me want to go and hide in a corner for a few days :-)

It’s been a while

Usual excuses – too busy doing stuff to write about it (though I did make a few more videos, which may have contributed to the lack of blog posts – videos are fun to make, but incredibly time-consuming to edit, and by the time I’ve sat at the computer for long enough to do that, I don’t feel like blogging…)

I can’t remember everything I’ve been doing since I last posted, so a few highlights:

Last weekend I went with Pieta to a craft workshop run by Rekindle, where we learnt to weave baskets from cabbage tree leaves.  It was a lot of fun, and I was pretty pleased with how my basket turned out for a first try.

They’re holding the Rekindle workshops in the Arts Centre now, instead of out in Ferrymead, which makes them a lot easier to get to, so hopefully I’ll be able to do some more.

In other craft news, I haven’t given up on my Block of the Whenever quilt, but I did set it aside for a while so I could play with some other ideas.  Most notably, learning to do partial seams (while also videoing the process, which mainly taught me that my craft room is not big enough to be a studio!) to make a herringbone-patterned cushion (actually, the bit of that cushion I’m most proud of is the quilting – I tried to emulate Angela Walters‘s “improv quilting” technique, with lots of feathers and swirls, and it turned out incredibly well.

There’s also been some D&D (both in the form of returning to Gwilk’s game, as well as being invited to join another game (made up of pretty much the same people as Gwilk’s game, but with different characters, which could be challenging), as well as going to another Dungeons and Comedians show the other night), and board games, and meeting all sorts of new and interesting people, and going to talks and dinners and even to watch a band (who weren’t that great, but the people I was with were fun, so that made it worth going).  And generally being excessively social (well, excessively social for me, anyway :-) ).  Oh, and being incredibly busy at work and learning all sorts of new skills that take me well outside my comfort zone, but that’s preferable to being bored!

I really must remember to post more frequently, so I don’t forget half the stuff I’ve done before I get a chance to write about it…

Block of the Whenever #9

I was originally going to make a Friendship Star for this block, but a traditional Friendship Star only uses one fabric (other than the background), and I wanted to include at least one solid along with each print.  So I decided to make it a Double Friendship Star instead.

For this block, unlike all the others so far, you have to cut out more fabric than you’re actually going to use, because you end up with quarter-square triangles with opposite handedness, so you have to make twice as many as you actually need.  Well, actually, I think you could make it without the extra QSTs, by cutting individual little triangles to make them from, instead of starting from squares, but that would be really fiddly and involve a lot of bias edges, so I decided to just waste a bit of fabric and do it the easy way.

Because of needing the extra fabric, I couldn’t get the whole block out of one 10-inch square.  Luckily a lot of the fabrics in the layer cake are repeated, so it was easy to find two squares of the same fabric.

For this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square and four 4 inch squares
Solid: two 4 1/2 inch squares
Background: two 4 1/2 inch squares and four 3 1/2 inch squares

Pair the solid and background 4 1/2 inch squares to make four half-square triangles, using the same technique as for the Shoofly block.

Trim the HSTs to 4 inch squares.

Draw another diagonal line from corner to corner across each HST, in the opposite direction to the seam, and pair each one with a print 4 inch square.

Because I was using a striped fabric, and wanted to make sure all the stripes ended up facing the same way, before I sewed the seams I folded the fabric over to double-check I had it oriented correctly (obviously, if you do this, unfold it again before you sew).

Sew either side of the marked line, cut apart, and press open.

This is where the handedness comes in. Each pair of QSTs will have one that goes anticlockwise print-solid-background, and another that goes clockwise print-solid-background.

Sort the QSTs into the two types, and pick one set to use. In theory you could just chuck the other set away (and in fact, you don’t technically even need to sew the second seam), but I kept them in case I want to make a second block out of them one day.

Trim the set of QSTs you’ve chosen to 3 1/2 inch squares.

Lay out the block and sew together as a nine-patch.

(I’m so impressed that I didn’t mess up the stripes. Despite all the checking I did, I was sure I’d still manage to sew them the wrong way round and end up with half of them pointing the wrong way…)

All the meetings

That was a very busy week.  Despite being a short one.  And totally dominated by meetings.  As I think I mentioned, Tuesday was our planning day, so that was one big day-long meeting, only interrupted by lunch (which we all had together at a nearby cafe – we did manage to avoid talking shop too much during lunch, though).  And then at the end of the day we all went out for a drink together (which, again, no talking shop, but it was a long day!).  It was a really productive day though, and great to get off campus and away from interruptions, and be in a really nice environment (we held the meeting in the beautifully restored old neo-gothic building in the Arts Centre where our School of Music is based).

On Wednesday, I amazingly had no meetings, so I was actually able to get some work done (mostly starting to work through the long list of action points that came out of Tuesday).  Jacq had invited me to go to a Nerd Degree recording that evening, so as the weather was horrible (the forecast had been for snow, which never arrived (other than a light sprinkling on the Port Hills), but there was plenty of rain to make up for it) I decided to just stay at work instead of rushing home and then going back out again.  Jacq was doing the same, so I grabbed some food from the cafe and went down to their office to eat dinner with them until it was time to go.

The show was, as always, incredibly funny (and incredibly visual – I have no idea how they’re going to edit it into a podcast).  The theme was wrestling, and they had an actual WWE-style wrestler as the co-host.  He stayed in persona for most of the evening (plus I think kept forgetting it was a podcast), so was doing a lot of posturing and demonstrating wrestling moves on the contestants, which was brilliantly funny, but yeah, wouldn’t translate to audio at all.  In true wrestling style, there was much (fake) drama, with one of the contestants defecting from her team to the other “evil” team, and then later Jacq’s partner (complete with hastily-donned luchador mask) leaping from the audience to the defence of the poor abandoned contestant.  This had of course all been pre-planned (the only performer who didn’t know what was going to happen was the one who’d been abandoned, which made it all much funnier as you could see him visibly struggling to figure out what was suddenly going on).  Jacq and their partner had been discussing the plans in the car on the way, so I knew parts of what was going to happen (though not exactly when), which made it even funnier, because I could see how cleverly the defector was manipulating events to build up the drama prior to her defection.

On Thursday we were off-campus for most of the day again, this time at the NDF Regional Forum, an “unconference” for people doing digital stuff in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector.  Another really useful day, but I wish it didn’t have to happen in the same week as our planning day and a long weekend – it didn’t leave much of the week to actually be in the Lab!  Especially as Friday ended up being another day full of meetings, because it was also the first week of the university vacation, so all the academic staff who are usually busy teaching finally had time to discuss their research projects, which meant they all wanted to meet with us, and because we were off campus so much this week, all the meetings ended up scheduled for Friday.  So yeah, I feel like I didn’t achieve much actual work this week, just a lot of talking!

Friday night was the LGBT+ meetup.  I almost didn’t go, because I was feeling pretty peopled out after all those meetings, but I’m glad I did, because it was a really fun night.  We went for dinner at Arjee Bhajee, the Indian restaurant on Riccarton Road, which I’ve often walked past but never gone to, which turned out to be really nice, and conversation ranged far and wide, from cosplay at Armageddon (the local science fiction convention) to the most ecologically sound way of disposing of a corpse.   A guy I’d met through union stuff was there, so it was good to catch up with him too (and he lives over my side of town, so gave me a lift home afterwards, which was a bonus – catching a bus on Riccarton Road on Friday night is always … interesting).

And there was more social stuff yesterday, because I’d arranged to meet Jenette for morning tea, to say goodbye before she heads back to Ireland in a few days.  Sad to see her go, but hopefully we’ll be able to stay in touch via internet (and she might get back to NZ some day – it sounds like she’s kept her options open for coming back if life leads her back in this direction).  Anyway, it was great to have one last chance to catch up in person.

I had an attempt at videoing my day yesterday daily-vlog style.  I’ve decided that attempting to keep my YouTube channel confined to a single theme was never going to work, so I’m just going to make random videos (on hopefully a reasonably regular basis) on whatever I feel like at the time.  I haven’t edited yesterday’s clips together yet, but it’s going to be an experiment in whether I can turn a relatively mundane day (housework, going to the library and supermarket, doing a bit of sewing) into something entertaining.  So that’s the plan for the rest of my morning: learning some new stuff about how the video editing software works, then see what I can apply to the random selection of clips I filmed.  The process should be interesting at least, even if I fail at making the video itself interesting (if it never appears on my channel, you’ll know why :-) )

Block of the Whenever #8

Yet again, apologies for the lighting in the photos – even though it’s stopped raining (for now), the sky was still pretty overcast today, so it was pretty dark in my sewing room.  I really should put a decent lamp in there…  Anyway, the colours are way out in these photos.  The “red” is actually quite pink in real life, and the blues are much brighter.

Block number 8 is quite a complex one.  I’ve seen it called a Morning Star, but there’s a few other blocks that also get called Morning Star, so I’m not sure that’s actually the name.

To make it you’ll need:

Print: one 4 1/4 inch square, one 3 1/2 inch square, and four 3 1/2 x 2 inch rectangles
Solid: one 5 inch square and four 2 inch squares
Background: one 5 inch square, four 2 3/8 inch squares, and four 2 inch squares

(I originally made a mistake with my calculations and made the 2 3/8 inch background squares 2 7/8 inches square, which is why they look a bit big below. Luckily, I was able to trim the resulting units down to the correct size once I realised my mistake).

I used yet another method for making half-square triangles, this time one which makes eight at a time. (Actually, it’s not strictly a new method – it’s technically just applying the two-at-a-time method to four squares at once, without cutting them up first. But it feels like a different method).

To make them, place the 5 inch solid and background squares right sides together, and draw diagonal lines from corner to corner in both directions.

Stitch quarter of an inch on either side of each line.

Cut the square in half horizontally and vertically, and along the marked lines.

Press each piece open, to get eight HSTs.

Cut off the dog ears, and trim to 2 inches square.

Combine two HSTs with a small solid and background block in a four-patch.

Repeat with the rest of the HSTs.

Now use the 4 1/4 inch print square with the other four background squares to make flying geese, using the same technique as in the Flying Dutchman block.

(This is about when I began to suspect I’d messed up the measurements, because the overlap between the two background squares was so huge. But I decided to continue anyway, and hopefully be able to trim them down later.)

Sure enough, my flying geese turned out way too big. But I was able to trim them down to 3 1/2 by 2 inch, so it worked out ok. (The trick to trimming them down, if you’re ever faced with the same problem, is to first trim the pointy end of the goose so that the point is quarter of an inch from the edge. Then trim the other sides to fit the required size, making sure the goose stays symmetrical.)

Sew each flying goose unit to a print rectangle.

Now lay out the complete block, and sew together as a nine-patch.

Block of the Whenever #7

The second wet-weekend block I created is called the Sawtooth Star. This one has a much larger centre than the other blocks I’ve made so far, which was a nice opportunity to show off one of the large-scale fabrics from the layer cake.

To make a 9-inch finished block you’ll need:

Print: one 5 inch square (I fussy cut mine to centre on one of the big flowers)
Solid: four 3 1/8 inch squares
Background: one 5 3/4 inch square, and four 2 3/4 inch squares

I used the same flying geese technique as for the Flying Dutchman block, except this time the background fabric forms the geese.

Place a solid square on opposite corners of the large background square, draw a diagonal, and stitch quarter of an inch on either side.

Cut along the marked line, and press open.

Add another solid square to each, mark the diagonal and stitch on either side.

Cut along the marked lines, and press open.

Trim the flying geese units to 5 x 2 3/4 inches, and lay out the block.

Sew together to make your Sawtooth Star.

Definitely a very cheerful block for a grey day!

Block of the Whenever #6

It’s been a wet and miserable Queen’s Birthday weekend, so, apart from venturing out to buy baking supplies (so I could make muffins to take into work tomorrow – we’re having an all-day planning meeting, so I think treats will definitely be needed), and to go to Riccarton to see Solo (my first impressions verdict: it’s a fun enough movie that I can mostly ignore the bad bits), I’ve spent the long weekend at home.  Which meant lots of sewing time.  So two new Block of the Whenever blocks finished.

The first block is a pretty simple one, called a Shoofly.  It’s similar to the Churn Dash, but without the bars around the edges. I was even able to use the leftovers of the 10-inch square I used for that block to fussy-cut a centre again, but I paired it with a different solid fabric this time.

I used a different technique to make the half-square triangles, though, to avoid the problem of bias edges. So to make this block you’ll need:

Print: one 3 1/2 inch square
Solid: two 4 inch squares
Background: two 4 inch squares, and four 3 1/2 inch squares

Pair each solid square with one of the larger background squares, right sides together, and mark a line from corner to corner. This is the same technique I used to make the quarter-square triangles for the Ohio Star, but this time I’m stopping when I get to the half-square triangles.

Stitch quarter of an inch away from each side of the line.  (By the way, sorry about the poor lighting for these photos – I normally use the natural light from the window to take the in-progress shots, but it was such a grey day there wasn’t a lot of light coming in).

Cut along the marked lines, and press open.

Trim the HSTs to 3 1/2 inch squares, and cut off the dog ears.

And that’s all the components made.

Sew the squares together into a nine-patch, and you have a Shoofly block:

Strange happenings

Sorry about the radio silence again.  For some reason (I’m blaming the weird time zone in Spain and southern France), I actually got hit with a bit of jet-lag this time (normally I’m pretty good at avoiding it), and that combined with the usual post-holiday slump, and the grey weather, left me feeling pretty unmotivated since I got home.  I’m starting to come right now though, and even felt inspired to do some sewing this afternoon (as you probably gathered from the previous post).

Anyway, I suspect this isn’t going to be a coherent blog post, just a collection of random paragraphs.

My sprained thumb is still pretty sore (not helped by the fact that I keep forgetting that it’s sprained, and over-using it).  It’s fine for most things, but then every so often there’s something it just has no strength for – like turning on taps or doing up zips.  According to the bit of googling I did, sprains usually heal in around 6 weeks, so hopefully it will come right soon (or, at least, it would if I could remember to look after it!)

On Friday night I went to the Free Theatre’s production of Tom Waits’s Alice.  I’d expected it to be a strange play, especially because the Free Theatre has a reputation for doing pretty extreme things with their staging, but it turned out to be an even stranger experience than even the actors expected, when a member of the audience had a grand mal seizure in the middle of the play.  At first I assumed it was just part of the play (it did sort of fit the scene, in a strange way), but it went on a bit too long, and then I realised that the actor playing Alice (who was in the middle of a monologue) was starting to cast worried glances towards the back of the audience (it’s a very small theatre), and eventually one of the other actors came out and stopped her, and they put the lights up so that the man could be carried out into the foyer (and, they told us later, taken to the hospital, which is only just down the road from the theatre).  There was an unplanned intermission while that was all happening, so we were chatting to the people sitting on either side of us, and they both sheepishly said the same thing, that they’d at first thought it was just part of the play too.

It probably says something about how weird the production was that someone having a seizure in the audience seems a perfectly plausible bit of staging.  But it also says something about how deeply conditioned we are by “correct” behaviour in the theatre, that even once we all started to suspect it wasn’t part of the play and that something was actually wrong, we all still just sat there politely, not wanting to interrupt the performance.

The play eventually got back underway, and despite being weird, it was actually pretty good.  Because of the interruption it was very late by the time it ended, though, so I missed the last bus – or at least, the last bus that would have taken me all the way home – I managed to get a bus as far as the university and walked home from there.

It turned out to be quite a dramatic night over this way, too.  As I was walking along Memorial Ave, I was passed by several police cars going at very high speed with lights and sirens.  And then a bit further along at Burnside High, there were alarms going off in the school, and a police car sitting in the shadows outside the back entrance, with an officer in the car watching the entrance very intently – I assume waiting for whoever had caused the alarms to go off to try and escape out the back way.  (It turned out later that there’d been an arson at the school – as that article says the police are talking to “persons of interest”, I suspect the officer’s patience might have been rewarded.)

The rest of the weekend was pretty sedate in comparison.  The only other strange occurrence (well, strange for Christchurch, anyway, where we don’t have many Jewish people) was a knock on my door last night from a person holding an unlit candle and asking if I’d lit my fire yet.  He explained that he was Jewish, and that he couldn’t light the candle because of the Sabbath, but that he also couldn’t ask someone else to light it for him, he could only use a flame that was already lit (Yetzirah, I’m sure you can tell me if I misunderstood what he was telling me?).  Hence him wandering around the neighbourhood knocking on doors in the hope that someone had a fire going in their house.  I hadn’t lit the fire yet (it had been a sunny day and was only just starting to get cold), so I wasn’t able to help – hopefully he found a neighbour who’d felt the cold sooner than me, otherwise he was going to be in for a very dark night.