Progress, and not so much progress

My plan to use spare half hours to sew failed the moment the really cold weather set in, because I’d forgotten just how cold the study can get in winter (for some reason to do with the way the hallway bends just before the door to the study, the warmth from the fire, which happily heats the rest of the house, never quite reaches the study).  So dragging myself away from my comfy chair in front of the fire into the inadequately heated by a small fan heater study was a struggle – one which the warm and comfy chair usually won.

I also haven’t been feeling all that creative anyway – we’re still attempting to recruit new staff at work (I won’t go into the details of why the process is dragging on so long, because it reflects badly on the professionalism of people in certain parts of the organisation, but let’s just say there have been some unnecessary delays), so I’m still trying to juggle the work of three people on my own – thankfully everyone else involved in the projects I’m working on has been very understanding that I can’t do everything at once (and in some cases have just had to put projects on hold for a while), but it’s still pretty stressful and exhausting keeping everything going, so I’ve been pretty much feeling like crashing when I get home (not helped by being out being social three nights out of four last week!).  I am so looking forward to getting some new staff!!!

Anyway, as a result I haven’t got very far on sewing all those nine-patches together (also, sewing them together is a very slow process, because there are SO MANY seams to match!  I really didn’t think about that when I was designing the quilt!).  But I’ve got a few rows sewn together at least:

And I have made good use of sitting in front of the fire time to put the binding on the jelly roll race quilt. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

My quilting is still a long way from perfect, but it’s definitely improving, and basting it on the kitchen table definitely worked, because there’s no stray tucks or pleats in the fabric on the back.

The being super-social last week was probably a bad idea, considering how tired I was, but it was fun.  On Tuesday night I was the Toastmaster (ie Chair) for our Toastmasters meeting, which not only involves a lot of work during the meeting introducing speakers and keeping the meeting running to time, but also meant I spent most of the weekend emailing back and forth with people making sure that all the speaking roles were filled, and finding replacements for last minute apologies.  The meeting went really well though, and finished almost exactly on time, so I was happy with my efforts.

Then on Wednesday night there was a quiz night for the College.  Seeing as we didn’t have enough staff to put together a team from the Lab, I joined my former colleagues from English, and despite a not great start (and the fact that the quiz was one of those franchised ones that are never as good as when the organisers just put the questions together themselves – very heavily skewed towards rugby and pop culture, and of course never any science questions, which incites me to rant about the state of society and why are people so scared of science…) we somehow ended up winning.  Despite my reservations about the quiz format, it was a lot of fun. It definitely helped that nobody was taking the quiz too seriously (first prize was a “gold” cup from the $2 shop, and some coffee vouchers for one of the campus cafes, so it wasn’t exactly high stakes :-) ), so there was much silliness going on, and attempts to bribe the judges, and much friendly rivalry going on between our table and the History department table next to us (they came second in the end).

Then on Thursday night I went to the crafting meetup group, which I probably should have skipped seeing as it was the third night in a row I was out late, but I hadn’t been able to make it for a few weeks so thought I really should go along.  It was over in Linwood, which is always a pain to get to (especially as they’d had some sort of power outage or something at the bus exchange, so the real time arrivals system was down and you just had to guess when your bus would show up and at what end of the bus exchange), but I made it over there eventually, and did actually have a nice evening.  Luckily someone offered me a lift home, so at least I didn’t have to battle the bus exchange chaos again getting home, but I think I might skip the meetups on that side of town for a while, at least until the evenings get lighter again so that I can just catch a bus that takes me in vaguely the right direction and then walk, rather than having to find the combination of buses that will take me close enough to not have to walk too far in the dark.

Anyway, talking of walking, it is actually a nice day today, so I think I will abandon my computer now and go for a nice walk and enjoy the sunshine for a while.  The way the weather had been lately, it could be weeks before I see the sun again!

Lots of little squares

Finished making the nine-patches.  All 113 of them.

I’m slowly getting better at getting all the seams to match up with each other properly (nine-patches are very good practice for that!).

I haven’t got as far as actually sewing the blocks together (too much of a social life this weekend, going out to a Toastmasters thing last night, and then to a birthday party for one of the mini-Harvestbirds this afternoon), but I did stick them all up on the design wall just to see whether what I’d been imagining for the quilt would look as good in reality, and it does:

I still need to play round a bit with the exact placement of the blocks, because I just threw them up there in the order they came off the pile, so some of the colours in the nine-patches are a bit too grouped together, but I’m really pleased with how it’s looking – the colours in the nine-patches work together with the Oakshott blocks in exactly the way I’d hoped.

(Hmm, do you think mini-Harvestbird would mind if I skipped her birthday party in favour of playing with my quilt a bit more? …nah, probably should go to the party, shouldn’t I?)

Spare half hours

Ages ago I asked Deb Robertson how she manages to produce so many quilts while juggling work and children, and she told me she makes a lot of use of those spare half hours at the beginning and end of the day, when you can sew a few seams, or cut a few pieces, even if you don’t have time to do much more.

Now that I’ve got the new sewing table, it’s a lot easier to leave a project set up mid-process, without it being in the way, so I decided I’d give her approach a try.  So in the evenings this week (I’m not organised enough in the mornings to find spare time to sit at a sewing machine!) I’ve been sitting down with the aim of just making a little bit of progress (rather than my usual approach of thinking of the project as a whole (or even each major step of it) as being something that needs to be completed all at once, so therefore needs a huge chunk of spare time to work on).

And it’s amazing how much I got done.  Ok, so a couple of those evenings I got so engrossed in what I was doing that I stayed up way past my bedtime, but given that I was out two nights this week, I think I did pretty well:

That’s 341 sets of three little squares (it was supposed to be 339, but I mis-counted at some stage so did a couple extra by accident), all cut and sewn together.  Ok, so I sewed a lot of them by making strip sets then cutting them up, which sped up the process a bit, but that’s still pretty impressive, I reckon!

Now I’ve just got to sew the sets together to get nine-patches (which is exactly what it sounds like: a square block of nine patchwork squares), and I’ll have all my blocks ready to start laying out the quilt design.

I may end up spending more than half an hour working on it this afternoon, though – I’m too impatient to see how it’s going to look!

When decisions get too hard…

…start something new :-)

I still haven’t made up my mind about the border for the Three Dudes quilt (which (prompted by Mum asking why it was called Three Dudes, and me realising that the answer was that it was based loosely on a quilt design that was based loosely on a quilt design that was originally called Three Dudes, so by now it is very far removed from the original concept!) I have decided to rename as the Cordon Fence quilt (because the criss-crossing of the dark strips reminds me of chain-link fencing, and because Christchurch)), I’ve set it aside to think about another day.  Which meant my sewing machine was sitting empty.  Which is a bad thing!

The first solution to this problem was to spend some time consolidating some of the blocks I’ve slowly been accumulating for my super scrappy left-over-bits-from-my-scrap-basket quilt, and start connecting them together into bigger strips. Suprisingly, my occasionally grabbing a handful of scraps and sewing them together added up to quite a bit of quilt:


(The little green stars and blue hearts aren’t part of the design – they’re just post-its I stuck on there to remind me what size blocks I was aiming for)

The longest strip is long enough to go the full width of a quilt, and the others are getting close. I’ll need twice as many strips to make up a full quilt top, but even so, that’s about a third of a quilt made so far, all from scraps I would otherwise have thrown away (plus a few sample blocks where I was testing out how an idea would work).

Hmm, I suppose the real message I should take from this is that patchwork is an incredibly wasteful process!


I also started a brand-new project (because having four unfinished quilts in the production line is never enough :-) ), inspired by a charm pack (i.e. a pre-cut set of 5 inch squares) of Oakshott fabrics I’ve had sitting in my stash since forever. I won them during TartanKiwi’s In Flight quiltalong, and put them aside because the fabrics, though just small pieces, were so nice that they deserved to be used in a project that highlighted them somehow.

Except I had no idea how to do that, so they’ve just sat there for the last couple of years, waiting on inspiration.  Which finally struck the other day, when I came up with an idea that (I hope) will show off 30 small squares of plain but colourful fabric beautifully.  So I spent a very enjoyable hour or so picking out a selection of patterned fabrics to add to the charm pack:

A very busy collection, but that’s the idea – the plan is they’ll provide a contrast to the plain squares, while keeping all the colours in roughly the same tonal range.

I’ve actually made a bit more progress than that on the project – I cut most of the pieces yesterday, and made a start on sewing the units together that will eventually make up the blocks.  But by the time I thought to take more photos, it was getting too dark, so you’ll just have to wait to see what I’ve got planned :-)


In other news, work has been a bit stressful lately. On the plus side, I’m involved in a really exciting (and challenging! It’s definitely going to be stretching my coding skills!) project to produce a digital edition of a medieval manuscript. I’ve been sort of project managing/overseeing the project for a while, but not all that heavily involved in the actual work, but since Lucy-Jane left the lab, I’ve had to pick up a lot of the coding work she was doing, which is involving quite a steep learning curve (especially as it uses a language I’m not familiar with (both in the computer language sense, and in the human language sense, because the manuscript is in Latin! Although thankfully I don’t need to worry about that side of things – we have historians doing all the clever need-to-be-able-to-read Latin stuff, I just have to help make their work appear on the computer screen in the right way. Although I suspect I will have picked up quite a bit of Latin before we’re finished!)). So that’s something fun and juicy to get my teeth into.

On the minus side, a couple of days after Lucy-Jane left, Rosalee also put in her resignation. Not that I blame either of them for leaving – they’re both going to exciting new opportunities that they would have been mad to turn down (Lucy-Jane to a private sector programming job, Rosalee to work in social justice activism), but it’s suddenly dropped the Lab from three staff (plus the boss, who is teaching pretty much full time, so we don’t see much of him) down to one, and there’s no way I can pick up all of the work myself. Which puts the Lab in a bit of danger as to its long-term viability. Luckily the university has approved us taking on a couple of extra staff for the rest of the year (at the end of which my contract runs out anyway, so we’ll be having to make a business case to continue the Lab anyway), but it’s going to be tough getting them up to speed quickly enough that it doesn’t damage any of the projects we’ve got on the go.

Yeah, interesting times… Oh well, better than being bored, I suppose :-)


The Word literary festival, by piggybacking on the Auckland festival, have been having an autumn season, basically bringing a few of the authors who were going to Auckland anyway down to Christchurch.  I’ve only managed to get to one of the events (they all sold out very fast!) – a reading/performance by Ivan Coyote (whose book was one of the ones I bought at Scorpios the other day).  It was a great night – their work manages to be incredibly entertaining while touching on some pretty deep issues.  I thought about staying for their book signing afterwards, but chickened out – I never know what to say to authors at signings, and end up just mumbling a vague “Hi, I think you’re great, please sign this” and rushing away, and then think of all the cool and articulate stuff I wish I’d said afterwards.  And anyway, the queue was incredibly long, so I was worried if I stayed I’d miss my bus.

Of course, the minute I left the venue, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t stayed, so I decided that when I got home I’d write them an email to tell them how much I’d enjoyed the show.  Which I did, and got a lovely reply from them!  Totally fan-squeeing here :-)

Quilts in progress report

(With apologies for the terrible photographs – I keep forgetting that the lighting in the study in winter isn’t particularly conducive to getting colour-accurate photos.  On the plus side, I have managed to reinstall decent photo-editing software, so at least I could crop and resize them without too much pain…)

The jelly roll race quilt is quilted! Although the quilting doesn’t actually show up all that well in the photo. It looks pretty good in person though. So all I need to do is the binding, and it’ll be finished.

It’s the first biggish quilt I’ve quilted on my new table, and it’s definitely a lot easier moving a big quilt around on the machine when everything’s at the same level. Of course, because nothing is ever simple in my life, I’ve now run into a problem with the thread shredding when I quilt in a particular direction, which I’ve read can either be a sign there’s damage to the throat plate or the bobbin holder of my machine, or it can just be caused by using the wrong size needle. I really really hope it’s just the needle – if not, the sewing machine might be taking another trip back to the repair shop… (or I could just never quilt anything in that direction – might make curves a bit tricky, of course)

I also finished putting together the top for the Three Dudes quilt. Well, sort of finished it – I can’t decide whether I want to add a border to it or not. It looks a bit unfinished without a border, but if I do put a border on, I’m not sure what fabric to use (ideally, I’d use one of the fabrics in the quilt, but I can’t find anyone in NZ selling that fabric line, and the postage for buying it from overseas would be ridiculous). This is the disadvantage of using precuts for a quilt – if you add in some random other fabric that’s not from that fabric line, it’s really obvious.

This has been a really complainy sort of blog post, hasn’t it?

So, about those photos

Having been unsuccessful at figuring out which wire to wiggle to get my second hard drive working again, I gave in and paid a professional to look at it.  And it turns out that the reason my wire-wiggling wasn’t working this time was because the hard drive had entirely failed.  So, unless I want to pay vast amounts of money (like, nearly $1000) to a specialist data-recovery place to try and get the data off it, all my photos are gone :-(

The good news is that I never got round to deleting the files from two of the three memory cards from last year’s trip to Greece and Italy, so I’ve still got those.  The third memory card I did delete (because I needed space on the card for graduation photos…), but the deleted photos should still be reasonably easily (and cheaply!) recoverable, so computer repair guy is going to try and get them for me.

The bad news is that all of those photos I never got round to uploading from America, and Ireland, and Australia are gone.  And even the ones I did upload to Flickr are only low-quality versions – I kept the original high-quality versions on the hard drive in case I wanted to print them one day.

There may well have been other things on the drive that I’ll regret having lost, but I can’t think of anything major – the software is easily replaceable, and anything really important I kept on the main drive (or, in the case of my thesis, on my computer at work, which is backed up to the university’s servers).  It was just the photos that I stored on the secondary drive, because they took up too much space on the main drive.

Oh well, a lesson in backing up my data, I suppose (and in not putting off sorting and uploading photos for years!).  And even though I’ve lost the photos from my travels, I’ve still got the memories.  Which is what’s really important.  So I won’t be paying vast amounts of money to get the data recovered – I’d rather spend it on another trip :-)

So many updates

Sorry about the delay in posting.  A combination of being too busy, and having many many photos I wanted to add to a post, but my computer’s been playing up again (I’m about to give up and pay someone to fix it properly, because my “wiggle a few wires and hope” fix keeps failing) and I keep losing access to my E: drive, which happens to be where my decent photo editing software lives, and the built-in “tools” (yeah, right) that come with Windows 10 are terrible, and make me give up in frustration half way through the first photo.  However, I have armed myself with a supply of chocolate, and I am determined not to leave this computer again until I have finished editing and uploading the photos, and writing this post!

Graduation was wonderful, of course.  I was a banner bearer again, and, as I was also graduating, asked to carry the university crest banner (also known as “the dead sheep”) which leads the academic procession onto the stage.  It was raining, thanks to Cyclone Cook, so we didn’t do the full procession into the venue, just a short procession from the foyer into the hall, but it was still a very proud moment :-) So much so that I’m even going to post photos of myself here – I know, right?!  I’ll restrain from posting all of the millions of photos of the ceremony that Dad took, or all of the many many combinations of family photos from after the ceremony, but here’s just a few of my favourites:


My thesis supervisor, Heidi.


Best bit of my graduation outfit :-)

A fantastic day (ignoring the little glitch where I forgot to put my trencher back on after receiving my degree – my excuse was that I missed the briefing for graduands because I was at the rehearsal for the banner bearers, so while waiting to go on stage I was frantically trying to remember the correct sequence of hold trencher in left hand, walk across stage, shake hands with Chancellor, receive degree with right hand, put trencher back on, leave stage without tripping down stairs, and I kind of forgot one step.  Either that I was just so happy to be graduating my brain had shut down :-) )

After the ceremony I took the Niblings back to the campus (graduation is always held off-campus, because there’s no on-campus venue big enough – before the earthquakes it was held in the Town Hall, but now it’s out at Horncastle Arena).  Our first stop was the staff club, where they were putting on a barbecue lunch for graduates and families.  We sat with the other Linguistics postgrads (almost all of whom were there, despite only a couple of us graduating that day, because one of the PhD students was the musical act for the barbecue, so everyone else had come along to watch him play), and I think the kids were suitably impressed by the number of accents around the table (the Linguistics department gets a lot of postgrads coming from overseas to study here – for a while, I was the only postgrad in the department who spoke NZ English!).

Niece also got to chat with the Chancellor.  She’d come with me up to the bar to get a soft drink, and the Chancellor, who was sitting nearby, came over and asked her if she was going to come to UC when she grows up.  She told him she’d think about it :-)  When we went back to our seats, asked me if he was the guy who’d been wearing the fancy clothes up on stage, so I explained she’d just been chatting with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.

After lunch I took the kids for a tour around the campus – Nephew #1 is getting to an age where he’s starting to think about his university options, so he was interested to just have a look around the campus (I think he was surprised at just how big it is, compared to the little country high school he attends!).  Apparently what impressed Niece the most was visiting my office – when she got home, she excitedly told everyone we each have two computers on our desks (actually, we just have just dual monitors, but close enough :-))

The next day was my graduation party.  And the rain continued.  We’d put up a couple of marquees in the back yard the night before to try and keep the ground a bit drier, and by morning the rain had eased off to just drizzle, but it was still pretty damp.  I decided we were going to make the most of it, though, so I decided to use the garage as another dry space if required, declared the sunroom as the kids’ room and stocked it with colouring materials so that parents would have a warm and dry place to safely deposit their small people (under the “supervision” of Niece) if needed, declared the house to be a shoes-off zone to avoid too much tracking of mud in and out, and we set to work (with the help of Fuzzle, who’d arrived the night before, and Lytteltonwitch, who’d come early to help out) sweeping away all the leaves that had fallen in the winds overnight, and decorating the marquees and garage with balloons and streamers to try and cheer up the gloomy day.  Havestbird arrived to do clever things with my hair, so her girls helped out with the decorations, and by the time Jan (the caterer, a former colleague of mine who took redundancy from the university to set up a “pop-up tearooms” business) arrived to set up the food, everything was looking very colourful.

Amazingly, the rain stopped just in time for the party, and the sun even made a weak attempt to peek out from among the clouds.  A few people I’d hoped would be able to come didn’t make it (most notably, Jenny and Christian, who’d come over from Australia for the party, but ended up spending the day in the emergency room instead after Christian had a bad allergic reaction to some medication he’d taken the day before), but a whole load of my favourite people were there (including my other supervisor, Lynn, who hadn’t been able to come to graduation because she has a very new baby, so I was so happy she was at the party), and everyone got on really well (always a worry when you bring together people from different parts of your life), and the food was wonderful (of course! I knew Jan would produce something wonderful :-) ), and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

I’d asked my nephews to be waiters, half expecting them to get bored and wander off to play on the computer after half an hour, but they did a fantastic job, and spent the afternoon enthusiastically helping Jan out in the kitchen, and handing round drinks, tea, and plates of goodies.  They took their instructions a little bit too literally though – I asked them to make sure all the guests had a drink, and they did exactly that, offering everyone a drink as they arrived, and keeping glasses and tea-cups topped up.  But they never brought me a drink, of course, because I wasn’t a guest! :-)  But I was a very proud aunty anyway, because everyone kept telling me how polite the boys were.


The fanciest my hair has ever been! (Harvestbird made good use of her mother-to-two-small-girls braiding skills)


Lyttelton’s “plus one”, Albert. Wearing an Easter Bunny costume in honour of Good Friday, of course.


Albert ended up a little bit the worse for wear…


I discovered later that Niece had decorated my front doorstep with a chalk portrait of me as FutureCat :-) (The writing says “Don’t rub off”)


The aftermath. Despite the best efforts of Jan and the boys, it’s impossible to carry plates of food in and out to a muddy garden while keeping the floor clean (at least the kitchen is accessible via the back door, so they could constrain the mud to the linoleum, and not have to track it through the carpet in the front hall). It was still a big job washing all that mud off the floor the next morning, although the doormat took the brunt of it…

Although we were all very full with cake (There was a HUGE amount of cake.  And little sandwiches.  And scones with jam and clotted cream.  As I may have mentioned, Jan did a fantastic job with the catering), after most of the guests had departed, the rest of us headed into town to the food trucks in the Square, as I’d promised Dad we would last time he visited.   There weren’t as many people as usual (probably because of the weather and the holiday), so there weren’t the usual queues for the popular trucks, so we had a pleasant evening sampling the fare from various trucks and watching a group of break-dancers.

The next morning I had a surprise planned for the Niblings, as a late and/or early birthday present – I’d bought us all (plus Dad and Lytteltonwitch) tickets to the Crate Escape, an escape room that’s just opened in Christchurch.  Escape rooms are pretty new in NZ, so none of us had done one before.  It was great fun – we were locked into a room (inside a shipping container, of course – this is Christchurch, after all) and had 90 minutes to find the clues that would let us out.  The puzzles you had to solve were really nicely varied, so everyone had a chance to be good at something, and most of them needed some sort of teamwork (usually because half of a clue would be at one end of the room, and the other at the other end, so you’d have to communicate with each other to get the complete answer), so it was perfect to do as a group.  We got a pretty good time considering it was our first time – the guy on the front desk told us the average is 50 minutes, and we managed it in 45.

Niece went back to Alexandra with Dad and Stepmother that afternoon, but the boys stayed on with me for a few days (as did Fuzzle).  After all the excitement of graduation and the party, we had a pretty low-key remainder of the Easter break – mostly doing jigsaws and playing on the computer, with a few excursions into town for meals and to visit the Art Gallery.  It was still a fun visit though, and I think all enjoyed themselves.

I managed to catch up with Jenny and Christian for lunch (at Foo San, of course!) before they headed back to Brisbane.  It was great to see Jenny again after so long (I was surprised to realise it’s been four years since they moved to Australia!), and to realise that she’s one of those wonderful sort of friends where you can not see each other for years, and then just pick up the conversation where you left off.  They had a graduation present for me too – a voucher to Scorpios bookshop (they know me so well :-) )  So of course I grabbed the first opportunity I could to pop into town and do a little shopping:

The other seriously cool graduation present I got was from Mum – a sewing table.  Actually, I’d been looking at them for a while, and had pretty much made up my mind to just buy myself one, but Mum suggested it would make a good graduation present.  It was supposed to arrive before graduation, but there was a saga with the courier company (I never did figure out exactly what happened, but the track and trace kept telling me it was in Christchurch and would be delivered that day… the next day… the next day… until I finally rang them and the person who answered the phone discovered that for some reason it had just been sitting in the depot for a week, and was never even loaded onto the van for delivery… She was most apologetic, and it got delivered to me a couple of hours later.  The company was Post Haste, in case you want to know who to avoid in future).

Anyway, I finally got my table, and (after quite a bit of rearranging of the furniture in the study) got it set up:

It’s seriously cool – the machine sits down within the table, so that the tabletop is flush with the bed of the machine, which effectively gives you a sewing surface the size of the table – so much easier than trying to manoeuvre a quilt around on a tiny surface, and also ergonomically much better, because you’re sewing at a more natural height than when the machine is up on top of a table.

While I was rearranging furniture, I moved the bookcases out of the study so that I could have a design wall. It’s another thing I’ve wanted for ages – somewhere other than the floor to lay out quilt pieces so you can rearrange the pieces and plan how the finished quilt will look before you sew it together.

I was really pleased how it turned out. It’s just a flannelette sheet stapled to the wall (cotton fabric sticks wonderfully to flannelette, so it works great for a design wall – you don’t need to pin the pieces up or anything), but it looks quite professional. I think I need to stop calling this room my study though. Previously it was a study that happened to have a sewing machine in it, but now it’s more like a sewing room that happens to have a computer in it.

The pieces on the wall are the beginnings of a mini-quilt I promised the union organiser I’d make for the TEU’s Rainbow Te Kahukura subcommittee – she’s going to hang it in the window of the union offices as a sign that the union is an LGBTQI+ friendly space. Of course, once I’d started playing with my new setup, I had to keep going, so I ended up finishing the entire quilt by the next day – quilted with a rainbow design, of course :-) (I also discovered another use for my design wall – it make a great place to photograph work in progress!)

I tore myself away from my sewing on Saturday morning to go to the March for Science with Harvestbird and family. I had some cardboard from the box the table came in, so I plagiarised a few of the best slogans I’d seen on line for signs.

The march was quite small (just a few hundred people, from what I could tell), but very good-natured, and the speeches at the end were thankfully short, so it was a most enjoyable event. The elder mini-Harvestbird was very excited that she got to carry a sign in the march – Harvestbird is obviously doing a great job of raising future activists :-)

Some random photos from the march: (and then I’m never posting another photo until I get this computer fixed, because not having a decent photo editor is driving me mad!!!)

At least I don’t have any photos to post for last night’s excursion (even though the whole point of it was to take photos).  As those of you who live in appropriate latitudes will know, there’s been a very impressive display of aurora for the last couple of nights, so last night Lytteltonwitch suggested we take a road trip out to Lake Ellesmere, which is away from the lights of the city, and has a good clear view to the south, and see if we could spot them.  It had been a beautifully clear day, so the chances seemed good, so we headed out after the sun had set.  Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, it was covered in mist, which quickly thickened into fog, so it was impossible to see anything of the sky.  We decided to try Rakaia Huts instead, so got back in the car to head over there.

As we drove back round the base of the hills, there was a continuous stream of traffic heading out to the lake – I reckon everyone in Christchurch must have had the same idea, despite the ever-thickening fog.  Most people were driving to the conditions (the fog was so thick that the visibility was down to tens of metres, and it’s a typical NZ country road – unlit, winding, and narrow), so the traffic was travelling pretty slowly.  Unfortunately, some people weren’t so sensible, and were getting impatient at the slow traffic, so we were very nearly in a head-on collision when one driver decided to try and pass the long line of traffic.  In thick fog.   On a narrow country road.

The first we saw of him was a faint orange glimmer of lights through the fog, which I at first thought were the tail-lights of a car in front of us.  By the time my brain had registered that they didn’t look quite right for tail-lights, and seemed to be getting closer rather fast, Lytteltonwitch had slammed on the brakes (luckily we were going slowly enough that the car behind us had time to react too).  Thankfully the idiot coming towards us also just had time to react, and managed to pull back into the traffic on his side of the road (there was a lot of horn tooting going on at that moment!), or he would have hit us head on.  We were only doing about 60 km/h, and he wouldn’t have been going a lot faster, but still the combined impact would have been enough for a very serious crash, especially considering the amount of other traffic around us.  Quite a scary moment!

After we got our heartbeats back down to something approaching normal, we decided we’d carry on to Rakaia Huts (driving very slowly and carefully!), but there was fog out there too.  We did contemplate going up the Port Hills to try and get above the fog, but decided that the half of Christchurch that hadn’t gone to Lake Ellesmere would be up in the hills, and we’d had enough near misses for one night without tempting fate on roads with sheer drops alongside them, so we headed back into town (via the well-lit main highway!).  So no photos of the aurora, but at least we’re still alive!

And that’s (phew!) everything that I’ve been up to for the last week or two.

Cat on a cold tin roof

Amazingly, the sun actually came out over the weekend, and the forecast for Thursday and Friday is now just “drizzle at time”, rather than rain.  Drizzle at times I can handle.  Drizzle at times means just ducking under the shelter of the marquee for a few minutes until the sun comes out again.  Drizzle at times won’t rain out my party.

I spotted the neighbour’s cat making the most of the sunshine on the roof of my garage yesterday morning.  I’m not sure how he got up there, but given that I know he can leap to the top of the fence easily enough, the extra leap to the roof probably isn’t that tricky.

I had an incredibly busy weekend (and this week is going to be even busier!). On Saturday morning I met up with Lytteltonwitch and we went to the Food Show. Like last year, I got sent free tickets from a PR company (so I probably should have got round to posting something about it before the show was over, so that you’d have the chance to go if liked my pretty pictures, but like I said, too busy…). I don’t know if it was just because it was the second year I’ve been, or because I’ve got a million other things on my mind at the moment, but I wasn’t as impressed by it this year as I was last year – there seemed to be fewer exhibitors (or maybe just fewer exhibitors with products I was interested in), and the celebrity chefs on offer didn’t inspire me greatly (although that’s a matter of personal choice – I know lots of people were raving over Annabel Langbein being there, but she doesn’t really do much for me). However, there was still quite a lot to see: creatively presented exhibits, “health” foods made out of every ingredient you could imagine (my favourite was the raspberry and artichoke (and possibly garlic – it wasn’t entirely clear from their signage) dip), inventive products you never knew you needed, and people in silly hats. And of course, many many free samples. Definitely didn’t need lunch after doing the rounds of the exhibits!

I even bought something – some beeswax-infused cloths that you can use to wrap food instead of using gladwrap or plastic bags. I seem to go through a vast amount of gladwrap taking lunch to work, so we’ll see if these work out better. Or whether I just get lazy about the extra effort of cleaning the cloth each time I use it, and go back to quick and easy plastic…

After we left the Food Show, I dashed up to Northlands to buy some almost last minute bits and pieces for my party, then back home to get ready to go out again. Dana, one of our volunteers, had invited me to her birthday party, at a karaoke bar. I was a bit doubtful about the karaoke, having only experienced it (or rather, avoided it) in the “getting up to sing in front of a bar full of drunken idiots” NZ version, but this turned out to be the more traditional version. Our party (only 8 people) had a private room, which made the idea of singing much less intimidating (especially as none of Dana’s other friends knew me, so I didn’t mind making a fool of myself in front of them :-)). Dana spent a few years living in Japan, and speaks Japanese fluently, so the party was a mix of about half Japanese (or Japanese-speaking) people, and the other half Pakeha NZers, and the music choices reflected that – we were going from anime theme tunes to Disney musicals, and pop songs from half a dozen countries. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected, and the three hours we had the room booked for flew past very quickly!

On Sunday, Harvestbird came round for a graduation hair rehearsal. She’s been learning to do all sorts of fancy hair braiding (one of the perils of having two daughters, apparently), so offered to do something clever with my hair for graduation. So while the girls were occupied making decorations for the party, she experimented with various styles, and managed to come up with something that should look good under a trencher, without being too “girly” (the main two instructions I gave her :-)). Photos will of course follow at a later date.

Then I had to get dressed up to go out again, this time for dinner with Pieta, a friend from work. She’s away for Easter, and was most disappointed she wouldn’t be able to make it to my party, so suggested we go out for dinner to celebrate instead. We went to Strawberry Fare, which I haven’t been to for years – it’s expensive, but the food (ok, the desserts – nobody goes to Strawberry Far for the mains, they’re just what you order so you can pretend you’re a responsible adult) is really good. And the service has definitely improved from what it was like before the earthquakes – you actually get the kind of service you’d expect for the prices, now.

Pieta has been learning to weave, and gave me a lovely bouquet of flax flowers she’d spent the day weaving:

So yeah, a very full weekend. Tonight I’m going to a sciency/mathsy stand-up show, then tomorrow I’ve got a full-day workshop at work, and in the evening there’s a Toastmasters meeting, and a farewell for one of our members, then on Wednesday I’ve got to pick up my graduation regalia, and organise some more last-minute stuff, then family are arriving in the evening, then Thursday is graduation, then Fuzzle arrives that night, and Friday is my party, and on Saturday I’m taking the kids to the Crate Escape for their joint belated/early birthday present… and I’m already feeling exhausted just thinking about it! Good thing Easter and ANZAC Day fall so close together this year, so I can take the few days off in between and have a nice long break – I’m going to need it!

Dratted Debbie

After doing a pretty good job of trashing Queensland and the North Island, Cyclone Debbie reached us last night. This far south, it’s not a proper cyclone, just a lot of rain and a bit of wind, but it’s still been pretty miserable weather. The Press this morning was saying we’d get an entire month’s worth of rain today, which is not far off – the Met Service is showing 40.6 mm at the moment, with more still to come tonight.  The average rainfall for all of April is only 44.2 mm.

Luckily, we’ve so far escaped any serious flooding in Christchurch (about time the natural disasters passed us by!) – even the surface flooding isn’t as bad as it often is with heavy rain, because we’ve had enough rain over the last few weeks to keep the drains from blocking.  Normally rain in autumn means loads of surface flooding, because it’s such a dry time of year that nobody bothers to clear leaves from drains, so when it does rain they all get blocked immediately.

On totally selfish grounds, all this rain is worrying, because it’s graduation next week (which is held indoors, but we’re supposed to process into the venue, which we won’t get to do if it rains), and I’m having a party to celebrate, which for ages I’ve been planning to have in my back yard, because April in Christchurch is always dry and mild, and sometimes even still pretty warm.  Except the long range forecast for next week looks like this:


(Screenshot from)

A friend of Dad’s is lending me a couple of marquees, but at this rate my lawn is going to be a sea of mud, and it’ll be too cold even in a marquee. And I’ve invited too many people to fit inside my little house.

Oh well, I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that the Met Service have got it wrong. Long range forecasts can change dramatically before they arrive (one of the wonders of living on an island in the middle of a very large ocean, with pretty much nothing between us and Antarctica, is that forecasting our weather more than a day or two out isn’t exactly reliable :-) ), so I’m trying not to panic too much just yet. I suppose if the worst comes to worst, I can see if I can find somewhere to hire some duckboards and outdoor heaters…


As you may recall, I’ve been looking for ages for a footstool to go with my armchair. This has been a surprisingly difficult search, because I wanted it to be at just the right height so that my legs end up at the right angle when I’m sitting doing cross-stitch, so that I can have the pattern I’m following sitting on my lap and not slide off. I found and recovered an old footstool I found down in Alexandra last year, but it was a bit too tall. Lytteltonwitch found me another old stool which was closer to the right height, but a bit big and chunky. So the search continued.

Until Tuesday night, when I went to an upholstery class at Make, and made my own.

I used another piece of my Damascus silk to cover it, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out (except that my attempts to get the pattern of the fabric perfectly centred didn’t quite work, so the button ended up looking like it’s off-centre. It’s not, it’s the fabric that’s just a bit off-centre :-( ).

The class was really good, and I learnt a lot (like all the things I did wrong when I recovered the other footstool – I’m tempted to remove its cover and try again, now that I know what I’m doing), and best of all, I’ve now got a little footstool that’s almost exactly the right height.