Catching up on (some of) the news

You know how you get behind on something, and the further you get behind the bigger it gets, so it seems too impossibly huge to tackle, so you put it off even longer, and it just keeps getting bigger… yeah, that pretty much explains the massive gap in blog posts.  I can’t even blame putting all the interesting stuff on YouTube, because I’m months behind there, too.

Anyway, there’s no way I’ll get caught up on 6 months worth of news now, and some of it is in videos anyway, so this is going to be just a random collection of whatever news comes to mind.

Health News (the boring stuff)

I suppose the most important (though kind of boring now) news is a diabetes update.  It’s officially Type 1, which is the kind that most people develop in childhood, and is usually genetic (as opposed to Type 2, which is the one that’s usually caused by poor diet/exercise). It’s still a mystery why I suddenly developed it so late in life – my doctor said it might have been a virus that damaged my pancreas, which I think is doctor code for “I have no idea”.

Type 1 means I’ll need to be on insulin for the rest of my life (I’ve already got pretty blasé about poking myself with needles, so that’s a less scary thought than it was 6 months ago), but on the plus side, the dietary restrictions are so much more relaxed than they are with Type 2 (where the treatment is all about controlling your weight), so in theory I can eat pretty much whatever I like, as long as it’s appropriately balanced with insulin.  In reality, I’m still learning to do the insulin balancing act, so I’ve been pretty restrictive in what I’ve been eating, sticking mostly to a few basic meals that I can easily work out the insulin for (it’s a whole procedure, weighing everything you eat, and calculating how many grams of carbohydrate everything contains, and then deciding how much insulin you need to take to balance that out), but I’m starting to get a bit braver about eating a wider range of food now. I haven’t been brave enough to eat things like cake yet though – my dietician (yes, I have a dietician now – she’s part of my clinical team at the Diabetes Centre.  And yes, I also have an entire clinical team!) said occasional sweet things are ok in moderation (the guidelines for type 1 diabetes nowadays are pretty much the same as the healthy heart guidelines), but so far, other than a few squares of sugar-free chocolate, I’ve been avoiding sugary stuff.  I fully intend to have cake for my birthday though!

Health News (the exciting stuff)

The more exciting news on the health front is that as part of all the “I have a chronic illness now, how am I going to cope?” soul-searching I did at the beginning of the year, I decided that it was time to do something drastic to take control of my life.  So instead of just watching top surgery videos on YouTube and wondering wistfully whether I could do that, I went and asked my GP about it.  Who referred me to a psychologist (psych sign-off is still required for any sort of gender-affirming treatments in NZ; the concept of informed consent hasn’t really reached us yet), who confirmed what I’d already suspected, that getting a place on the (decades-long) public waiting list would be pretty much impossible unless I was prepared to lie and say I was a binary trans man (which I’m definitely not), and go down the “traditional” pathway of hormones (which I don’t want) before surgery.  So that meant if I wanted surgery I’d have to go private.  And pay a lot of money, because I don’t have health insurance.

I almost gave up at that point, but when I had a look at my finances, I figured out that I could actually afford it, it would just mean a bit of re-prioritising.  And thinking about that made me realise that having a body that more closely matched my gender was going to make me a lot happier than renovating my bathroom, or replacing the carpets, or any of the other vague (and boringly practical) plans I had for that money.  So I rang a surgeon for a consultation, and I’m booked in for surgery in early August (!!!!).

Which is getting excitingly close!  I’m busy organising all the practical stuff for my recovery at the moment – I’ll basically have no movement in my upper body for the first few weeks, so I’m going to have to take full advantage of friends’ offers to help just to keep me fed and warm. Having to be dependent on people isn’t something I’m looking forward to, and I’m definitely not looking forward to the surgery itself, but I’m so looking forward to the result – having a flat chest will make it all worth it!

Christchurch News

Christchurch of course hit the world’s headlines again earlier this year, with the horrific shootings at the mosques.  It’s had a huge impact on our city, which only just starting to recover from the earthquakes (and then the fires).  I spent the first month or so after the attacks thinking they hadn’t affected me – I was safe at work when it happened (the campus went into lockdown, which was a bit scary because of the memories it brought back of the earthquakes, but mostly just an inconvenience – we weren’t allowed to leave the building until about 6.30 pm), and I didn’t know any of the victims, other than one man who I’d met briefly at my former ESOL student’s house, and who I would exchange nods with when I saw him on the bus.  But the horror of it, and the air of tension across the whole city (not helped by having police helicopters patrolling overhead for weeks, and armed police everywhere) got to all of us, I think – I was surprised how strongly I reacted when I accidentally saw part of the shooter’s livestream last month (we’ve been protected from seeing any of it here, because the NZ media has been very careful about not giving any airtime to the shooter or his manifesto – it’s only very recently that they’ve started referring to him by name, and not just as “the shooter”).  It was only a short clip from the beginning of the video, just of him getting out of his car to walk into the mosque, so nothing graphic (thankfully!), but it still made me feel physically sick, and almost in tears, just seeing that much.  So yes, the shootings affected me more than I thought.  But how much worse it must be for the families and friends of the victims, and for the survivors who can’t just turn off a video to avoid constantly seeing what happened.


I went to one of the memorial services (there were many), and afterwards walked past one of the areas where people had been leaving flowers.  There were so many of them – they filled the grass verge all the way along the block, plus there were more hanging from the fence, and on the other side in the botanic gardens.  The outpouring of love and grief from across the country was amazing.  I’d say it gave me hope, but of course all too soon everyone has forgotten, and are back to the casual everyday racism (just this morning our provincial rugby team announced they won’t be changing their name from the Crusaders, because there’s nothing wrong with associating yourself with a war between Christians and Muslims, apparently 🙁 )

Craft News

One amazing response to the shootings was the Healing Hearts for Christchurch project, which started off with the aim of collecting blocks to make into quilts for the families of the victims, and quickly expanded to include quilts for all of the survivors and first responders, and for just about everyone in Christchurch’s Muslim community.  Last I heard they were up to nearly 900 quilts!

Pieta (a friend from work) and I got together one weekend to do our bit, and managed to sew 27 blocks to send off to the organisers in Auckland.

We had a few blocks left over that had turned out a bit small, so didn’t fit the requirements for the Healing Hearts project, so we turned them into a mini-quilt we could hang in the foyer of our building at work.


I did the quilting (which I’m quite proud of!), and Pieta did the binding and made the hanger.

It’s since been moved from the noticeboard where we’d hung it temporarily to a permanent position on the wall, where it’s displayed like an actual artwork, complete with a little nameplate giving its title (“محبة/Aroha/Love”) and provenance! So I think I can call myself an artist now 🙂

I got my first quilting commission this year too!  Our union organiser had loved the little “Rainbow/Te Kahukura” quilt I’d made for the union offices, so she asked me to make something larger to hang in the meeting space (and even paid me for it!  Though I only let her pay for the materials – that still counts as a commission, right, even if I didn’t charge for my time?).  She gave me pretty much free range on the design, but suggested I do something with “Tū Kotahi” (“Stand as one”, one of the union’s slogans). I expanded that idea to a general theme of diversity, and standing together, and I was pretty pleased with the result:


The background is an echo (if you squint your eyes the right way :-)) of the union’s logo, which has two interlocking spirals in shades of yellow and orange.  I tried to make the people as diverse as possible (I made this before March, or I’d have thought to put one of the women in a hajib) – as well as the obvious diversity with the rainbow flag and the wheelchairs, I tried to have each of the fabrics I used for the people represent a different discipline across the university: numbers for maths, cogs for engineering, bugs for biology, bones for history, words for English, a tui for NZ studies, and so on.

Then Pieta, after the success of our mini-quilt/artwork, asked if we could collaborate on another quilt, as a gift for a colleague who’s been having some health problems lately.  Complications with scheduling meant that after an initial design discussion, I ended up making most of the quilt myself, though PIeta is again doing the binding – she’s working on it at the moment, which is why I haven’t got a photo, because I forgot to take one before I passed it over to her.  I’ll get a photo once it’s finished, but for now you’ll just have to believe me that it looks really cool.

Looking back through my photos, I realise I haven’t posted proper photos of the last few projects I finished last year, either!

The biggest thing was finishing the “Millie’s Star” quilt. It ended up being a lot more work than I’d anticipated when I offered to make the girls quilts, but it was definitely worth the effort – I was so pleased with how it turned out, and both girls were totally thrilled with their quilts.

I’d stitched together all the strips I’d trimmed off the blocks for “Harmony’s Flying Foxes” (where I messed up the maths, so had to cut the blocks down a bit) into little scrappy log cabin blocks, so I used those to make a quick cushion for a bonus Christmas present for Niece:


She loved it (in fact, I think she liked it more than her actual present!), and apparently it still has pride of place in her bedroom 🙂

And finally, one of the pile of Christmas mini-quilts that I started with the intention of giving to everyone a couple of Christmases ago, but totally failed at actually finishing at the time.  The rest are still sitting in the pile, but I actually managed to at least finish this one off in time to send it off with my Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange gift last year:

In other craft news, my rag rug is still in progress (almost finished though – I just need to stop getting distracted by other new and shiny things and get on with the last wee bit), various other quilts that were in progress this time last year (including the “Block of the Whenever”) are still sitting in my “get round to it one day” pile, and in the meantime I’ve started new projects (just about finished sewing the top for a quilt that’s going to be a gift, so I need to get it finished before my surgery!), and have a million more in the planning stages.  (Now you know why I never have time to blog anymore…)

And finally…

Just because I found this photo on my phone while searching for the quilt photos:

I actually managed to get to some of the Pride events this year. We don’t have a parade in Christchurch, but there were plenty of other cool events, including a picnic in Rangiora I went to with Harvestbird and family, where I got my face painted as “a purple rainbow cat butterfly”.  Because who wouldn’t, when presented with an option like that? 🙂

What I made in 2018

(Very late (blame the Flickr debacle) and I know I’m way behind on blog posts (and vlogs), but I’ll get there eventually – life has been busy!)

Projects completed in 2018:

January

I made a lot of progress on projects, but didn’t actually finish any of them.

February


Lego Quilt

March


Birds in Flight quilt

April and May

Is travelling a good enough excuse for not finishing anything?

June


Herringbone cushion

July


A basket made from cabbage tree leaves

August


Another doll’s quilt

September

So many projects in progress, none finished…

October

Harmony's Flying Foxes
Harmony’s Flying Foxes quilt

November

Too busy travelling…

December


Millie’s Star quilt


A scrappy cushion for Niece


Another Christmas mini-quilt


What I made in 2017

What I read in 2018

(Very late posting this list, but here it is…)

Total = 116 books

January (12)

  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (e-book)
  • I Think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (e-book)
  • Solo by Kwame Alexander (library audio book)
  • Shape by Shape: Free Motion Quilting by Angela Walters
  • Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities by Todd Presner, David Shepard and Yoh Kawano (library book)
  • The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens (library audio book)
  • Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal (library e-book)
  • Devil’s Food by Kerry Greenwood (e-book)
  • Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks (e-book)
  • This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang (library audio book)
  • The Tortilla Curtain by T Coraghessan Boyle

February (12)

  • The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace (library audio book)
  • Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (e-book)
  • Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse (library audio book)
  • Filth by Irvine Welsh (library audio book)
  • Cauldstane by Linda Gillard
  • The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson (library audio book)
  • Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
  • Simply Retro by Camille Roskelley (library book)
  • Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (library e-book)
  • How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart (library e-book)
  • A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (library audio book)
  • My Point… And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres (library e-book)

March (11)

April (7)

May (13)

  • Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • Merde Actually by Stephen Clarke
  • The Bletchley Girls by Tessa Dunlop (library audio book)
  • Murder on a Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende (library audio book)
  • Mystery Cats edited by Cynthia Manson
  • The Empress of Timbra by Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming (e-book)
  • The Spymaster’s Apprentice by Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming (e-book)
  • What We Reach For by Karen Healey (e-book)
  • Tricked by Jen Calonita (library audio book)

June (13)

  • When We Wake by Karen Healey (library e-book)
  • Between Us by Clare Atkins (library e-book)
  • Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott (library book)
  • Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (library e-book)
  • All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson (library audio book)
  • Every Day by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (library e-book)
  • You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour (library e-book)
  • Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey (library e-book)
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (library audio book)
  • Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey (library e-book)

July (17)

  • The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (library e-book)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (library e-book)
  • Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker (library audio book)
  • So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (library e-book)
  • Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane (library e-book)
  • Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
  • Modern Quilt Magic by Victoria Findlay Wolfe (library book)
  • The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (library audio book)
  • The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Translucid by Sophie Labelle (e-book)
  • Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Six Earlier Days by David Levithan (library e-book)
  • Ordinary Life by Elizabeth Berg (library e-book)

August (8)

  • Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • High Wizardry by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (library audio book)
  • The Wizard’s Dilemma by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane (e-book)

September (7)

  • Gender Games by Juno Dawson
  • The Camelot Caper by Elizabeth Peters (library audio book)
  • Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (library audio book)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (library e-book)
  • The Europeans by Henry James (library audio book)
  • Kit by Juno Dawson (library e-book)
  • The Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane (e-book)

October (7)

November (5)

  • The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict (library audio book)
  • Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • The Big Meow by Diane Duane (e-book)
  • Away With the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)
  • Wizard’s Holiday by Diane Duane (e-book)

December (4)

  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (library audio book)
  • Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin (library e-book)
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (library audio book)
  • Murder in Montparnasse by Kerry Greenwood (library e-book)

What I read in 2017 (106 books)
What I read in 2016 (92 books)
What I read in 2015 (112 books)
What I read in 2014 (93 books)
What I read in 2013 (129 books)
What I read in 2012 (128 books)
What I read in 2011 (133 books)
What I read in 2010 (137 books)
What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?

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.