So many pretties…

A few of the Christchurch Bloggers were meeting up at the Craft Love Fair at Mairehau High last night, so I went along.  I didn’t intend to buy anything, but there was a lot of temptation on offer (and all right, I may have bought a few small things…).  I was a bit braver about taking photos this time of displays that caught my eye (I always feel a bit nervous taking photos at craft markets, in case the stallholders think I’m trying to steal their ideas):


I already have a piece of art by this artist hanging in my hallway, and I was very tempted to add another to the collection – she does such wonderfully bright and joyful paintings. I stopped for a chat to her, and she was showing me the paintings of cats she’s been doing for an SPCA calendar – really amazing.


These wooden blocks are made from wood salvaged from demolished red zone houses. I ended up buying one for our new office at work (Did I mention we’re getting a new office, in the nicely refurbished building next door? We’re moving in next week, and it’s very exciting – no more cracks in the walls!) – seems like an appropriate decoration to have on my desk.


This was another stall using red zone timber, this time to make jewellery and ornaments. There was a gorgeous charm bracelet I was very tempted by, but I didn’t have enough cash on me (though I did make a note of her website…), so I bought a couple of little Christmas decorations instead.

After browsing the stalls for a while I caught up with three of the Christchurch Bloggers (TartanKiwi, Miriam and Squiltz, who I hadn’t met before), and we retired to the food carts to compare purchases over coffee and brownies. It was a lovely mild night after a week of rain, so it was very pleasant sitting outside chatting as the sun set.


In other news, I’m getting a promotion!  I met with my boss yesterday and he confirmed it’s all been signed off by HR, so I should get the formal offer early next week.  Not all of the day-to-day details of what I’ll be doing are worked out yet (because some of it depends on what other people are doing), but it’s looking like quite a bit more responsibility (which I’m both excited and terrified about!), and it comes with a pay rise.  Not a huge increase, but it’s enough to make me a little more confident that I can keep paying the mortgage, at least.

So, lots of excitement coming up at work next week, with new office and new responsibilities.  And most importantly, I’m finally feeling that I’m being properly recognised for the work I’ve been doing.


Nephew #1 made me a new skin for my Minecraft character.  He asked what I wanted it to look like (most players have skins based on their favourite cartoon characters or super-heroes), so I said I wanted a kitten in a tutu like my avatar.

That turned out to be a bit tricky within the limitations of the pixel size, but I think he made a pretty good attempt:

Ok, so maybe she looks more like a farmer in ripped shorts than a ballerina, but I like her :-)

A parcel from Canada

I participated in TexasWren’s ornament exchange again this year, and last night when I got home my ornament was waiting for me.  But not just an ornament, it was a whole box of goodies from Herchelle in Calgary.


Parcels with proper stamps on them always seem much more exciting

On opening the box, the first thing to appear was an envelope:

And inside the envelope, a Christmas card, a postcard of Calgary, and two bookmarks

Next layer down was another box:


A box packed with all sorts of treasures


As well as the angel ornament, there was a knitted dishcloth, an enamel brooch, two glass pebbles, and some Canadian lollies (sure sign of a Commonwealth country – they have Cadbury’s :-))

But wait, there’s more! There’s still another layer left in the box:


A recipe book of Canadian Christmas recipes!

Of course, I’m feeling a bit inadequate now for the tiny parcel I sent to my ornament recipient – just two little ornaments and a card.

Making slow progress

The good news is, I finished the machine sewing part of the minecraft face mats.


Work in progress – mats at various stages of completion.


Machine sewing finally done!

Of course, that means the bad news is I’m up to the hand-sewing part.  Which is the slow and difficult bit (well, it is if you’re me, anyway – somehow, despite being relatively skilled with a needle when it comes to embroidery, when faced with normal sewing I become a fumbling idiot again).

But at least it means I’ve finally been able to put the sewing machine away and restore the lounge to some semblance of tidiness.


The pre-Christmas social season is warming up, and my calendar is starting to fill.  Which is good, but also a bit exhausting – there’s a definite limit to how many social engagements I can manage before I have to go and curl up in a corner somewhere and recharge my introvert batteries.  But mostly it’s a fun time of year – and with the added enjoyment this year of knowing I can attend as many things as I like without having to feel guilty for being out all the time.

I may even throw a party of my own – not many Bookcrossers left in Christchurch now for the once-traditional Bookcrossing Christmas meetup, but I’m sure I could reinvent it as a more general friends-of-FutureCat event :-)

The season kicked off on Friday night with a get-together of a bunch of women from Toastmasters.  It was a pot-luck at one of the women’s house, and lots of fun. I made brownies (I’ve almost perfected the chocolate-caramel-sea salt recipe), which went down very well.  Definitely a great group, and very welcoming – I’ve been made to feel like one of the gang right from the start.


I realised that in the great DD-breaking of last weekend, I didn’t actually get round to writing the entry I’d sat down at the computer to write when I found myself locked out of the site, being a summary of what I did at Show Weekend.  I wrote about the sewing part, but not the rest of the weekend’s events, the highlight being going with Harvestbird to the National Day of Action Against Rape Culture rally in town.

Some background for the benefit of the foreigners: rape culture has been in the news in NZ recently with the uncovering of a website devoted to obnoxious thugs boasting about how many young heavily-intoxicated women they’ve had sex with.  As well as the usual talk-radio idiocy about whether the women were “asking for it”, there’s been controversy around the fact that it seems the police have known about the site for some time, but hadn’t acted, possibly because none of the women had come forward with formal complaints (though there’s some dispute about that).  Anyway, the whole thing has highlighted the fact that (a) there’s still a sector of society out there who have some pretty hazy ideas about what consent means, and (b) there’s a lot of rape and sexual abuse going on that’s either not reported or not prosecuted, because (c) the culture still puts a lot of blame on the victim.

Hence the National Day of Action, with rallies organised in the main centres.  The Christchurch rally wasn’t hugely well attended (it’s difficult to get a crowd together in Christchurch these days to protest anything that isn’t EQC or CERA), but the couple of hundred of us who did show up made a good attempt at making as much noise as a larger crowd, and we did pick up a few more as we marched through Re:Start towards the Square.

There were some very good speakers at the rally too (and some not so good – it was kind of ironic that the microphone was held hostage for far too long by a man who liked the sound of his own voice a little too much…), and it was especially moving to hear the survivors who were brave enough to stand up and publicly tell their stories.

Of course, as these rallies always are, it was all very much preaching to the converted, and if I was feeling cynical I’d say nothing will change as a result of the Day of Action.  But it’s still got to be better to stand up and add one small voice to the chorus saying “this isn’t ok”, than to hide your head in the sand and try and pretend it’s not happening.

Testing, testing… is this thing on?

DD went a bit crashy-bang yesterday, and I got 404’d from my own diary, so I wasn’t able to post the progress pictures of the remainder of the Minecraft faces:

Chicken:

Cow:

And Enderman (a type of monster, for the uninitiated – its eyes glow pink when it’s angry at you):

I started doing the quilting and binding part, but decided I’d spent way too long sitting over a sewing machine for one long weekend (or rather, the number of mistakes I was making decided it for me), so I’ll have to finish them off next weekend.

Right, let’s see if this post actually posts…

The chickens have landed

Which means I can finally reveal the secret project I mentioned ages ago.

In fact, it was two secret projects.  Or possibly just two iterations of the same secret project.  When browsing the internets looking for patterns to feed my new paper-piecing obsession, I came across a lovely chicken pattern that was just crying out to be turned into something.  And as I know two wonderful women with an affection for said feathery beasts, of course I had to make sew chickens for both of them.

And here’s the result:

I’ve still got a lot to learn about the quilting part – as you can see, I tried out a different technique on each, and I’m not 100% happy with how either of them went.  But I’m slowly learning what works and what doesn’t.

Anyway, Mum and Yetzirah, I hope you enjoy your chicken mats (Yetzirah informs me they’re called “Mug Rugs” in America – excellent name!), and that they bring some much-deserved brightness and joy into your tea breaks.

The right tools for the job

While it’s true that a good worker never blames his or her tools, it’s also true that for an unskilled dabbler, using the right tools for the job can make all the difference.

For example, these are not the right tools for cutting patchwork squares:

So after a text from Mum pointing out my general stupidity in this matter, I decided it was time to rectify matters.

One quick lunch-break visit to Make Cafe and a little advice from the ever-helpful Tartankiwi later, I am now in possession of the right tools for the job:

The cutter and ruler are an early Christmas present from Mum, and the mat is an early Christmas present from myself :-)  And together, they should make cutting out the remaining few hundred squares (and all my future fabric creations) a lot easier, and definitely a whole lot faster!

Thanks Mum!

Geekcrafting

It’s stinking hot today (seriously – I hung out a load of washing, and it was dry before the second load was even finished in the washing machine), so of course it was the perfect day to spend sitting over a hot ironing board working on my latest project.

It’s for a Christmas present, but as the recipients don’t read this (I hope!), I think I’m safe to show some progress pics.

As always, the before picture doesn’t give away many clues (other than the fact that I may have had a little fabric-shopping expedition yesterday… because of course I couldn’t just use the fabrics in my stash – I needed to go and buy exactly the right colours for every little 5 cm square…)

Did I mention 5 cm squares?  Yeah, a whole 480 of them by my calculation.  And they needed to be perfectly square and exactly the right size.  Mum, this is when that Christmas present of a rotary cutter thing would have really come in handy – do you know how hard it is to cut out perfect 5 cm squares (actually, they’re technically 2 inch squares – I ended up working in imperial instead of metric, because the seam allowance markers on my trusty old sewing machine are in eighths of an inch, so it was easier to switch over to imperial for everything than try and calculate all the conversions) using just a ruler, pencil and scissors?

Anyway, about 2 hours later I’d cut the first set of 96 squares and laid out the design:

At this stage the geekier among you will (hopefully) recognise what I’m making: it’s a portrait of this guy, one of the scarier Minecraft monsters.

And it’s destined to become one of a set of Minecraft-themed placemats, a silly little gift for my brother and his family (not that my brother and sister-in-law are into Minecraft, but the kids all are, so in the way of parents everywhere they’ve learnt to recognise their children’s obsessions and will hopefully be amused by the idea of having them around their dinner table :-)  Anyway, it’s really for the kids, because the proper present I’m giving them is on-line, which makes it hard to wrap, so I thought I’d create something physical to go with it.  I’d had a few other vague ideas, but then it struck me how perfectly the pixelation of Minecraft would suit itself to being patchworked, and had to give it a go).

An hour or two of sewing later, and creeper-face is a lot smaller (all those 2″ squares are more like 1″ now):

My incredibly accurate measuring and cutting of the squares obviously wasn’t, because they didn’t all line up properly when I sewed the strips together, but the misalignments aren’t too obvious.  I like the overall effect, anyway, and considering it’s my first attempt at this sort of patchwork, and I’m pretty much making it up as I go along, I think I did ok!

Next in line, a pig:

(Yes, I was using reference images – I may be an utter geek, but I’m not enough of one to be able to draw videogame characters from memory!)

Half the strips sewn. You can see how much area is lost to the seams!

And the finished face.  It’s not as obvious a face as the creeper (mainly because I didn’t have enough different shades of pink), but I kind of like that – the way it could just be a random pattern of squares, but when you look closer there’s a subtle pig face hidden in there (which the kids will recognise instantly).

I haven’t quite finished cutting out the squares for the next face:

So now I’ve just got to cut out the rest of the squares for the chicken, and sew them all together, and then do the other two creatures, and then there’s all the backing and quilting and finishing-off stuff… yeah, might take me another weekend or two to finish them.

 

And for no particular reason, a photo of my chief assistant in this project:

A quick update

I’m waiting for some files to process, so a quick chance for an update while I’ve got nothing better to do…


Thanks everyone for your kind words about my cousin.  A bit more detail has emerged about the crash, but they still seem not to completely know what happened.  At this stage it sounds like he’d already fallen off his bike before it hit the other vehicle.

Local newspaper report

I’m not sure whether I’ll make it to the funeral – I’d like to go down, but I don’t know yet when it will be – the family is waiting on the police to release his body, so it will probably all be organised in a rush once that happens.  Which means the chances of getting a flight are diminishing rapidly, and I really can’t afford another trip down to Central so soon after the last one.  I could catch a bus, which would be a lot cheaper, but it would mean taking at least three days off work, because it’s pretty much a full day’s travel each way.  Oh well, I’m sure my aunt and uncle will know I’m there in spirit if not in person.


I gave my first official Toastmasters speech last night, and got a good assessment for it – the assessor didn’t even think I looked nervous (good thing she couldn’t see inside my head!!!).  Everyone seemed to be entertained by it, too – it was about some of the adventures I had when travelling through Africa (I titled it “Stories my mother will never get to hear” ;-))

It’s funny, I’ve done quite a few impromptu speeches already (part of each meeting is a section they call “Table Topics”, where you’re given a subject and have to speak on it for 2-3 minutes), and was reasonably comfortable doing them, but doing a prepared speech was much more nerve-wracking – maybe because I had more time to think about everything that could go wrong :-)  But the whole point of the group is to challenge yourself and get over the fear of speaking through practice, so I’m sure it will get better with time.  It’s inspiring too hearing the stories of the longer-term members, and seeing how far they’ve progressed over a year or two of membership.

Anyway, despite the nervousness, I’m kind of looking forward to giving my next speech in a few weeks’ time.  Maybe I should do this one on Bookcrossing?


As I was about to write in my previous entry, I’ve had quite a few catches from Queenstown – not bad considering I didn’t do all that much releasing.

One anonymous finder, and four new bookcrossers!  Plus of course the many controlled catches from other bookcrossers at the uncon.


In other bookcrossing news, I’ve finally booked my flights to Melbourne for the 2014 Anniversary Convention.  Very exciting – both the convention, and to go back to Melbourne – I haven’t been there for about 20 years.

After the convention I’ll be tagging along with Lytteltonwitch on a wee road trip to Adelaide.  She’s going there for a geocaching meetup, but my plan is to just spend a few days wandering around and exploring the city.

I had kind of hoped to add another leg to my trip and go home via Brisbane, so I could visit Jenny and Christian, but it worked out too horribly expensive – that week must be school holidays or something, because flights home from Brisbane were about twice the cost they normally are.  Oh well, it’s an excuse for another holiday later in the year… :-)


And more planning for next year – I’ve enrolled for the next paper of my degree.  No idea how I’m going to have time to study, especially as I’m likely to be even busier at work next year than I am now, but I’m sure I’ll fit it in somehow – just means I’ll have to go back to not having any sort of life…

Ok, files have processed, so time to get back to work!

Totally uninspired title

I’ve had Goldenwattle staying for a few days, on her way round the country.  Fun to have a visitor (though of course I was at work most of the time she was here, so I didn’t actually see all that much of her).  It’s also nice to have the house to myself again though :-)

Before she headed off yesterday morning we raced over to the Gapfiller book exchange fridge, and I actually released some books (yes, I know, amazing – FutureCat actually releasing books in Christchurch – that hasn’t happened for a long while):


I’ve been getting some good catches from Queenstown:

 

 

I was in the middle of writing this when I heard some horrible news: one of my cousins has been killed in a motorcycle accident.  I don’t know any more details than that, but that’s enough.  He was one of my favourite cousins – they lived quite near us when I was growing up, and he (being about 10 years older than me) always seemed so grown up to me, but he still had time for his bratty little cousin – I always looked up to him (both literally and figuratively).  As adults, we didn’t see much of each other, just met occasionally at family gatherings, but he always struck me as such a nice guy.  He’s got a lovely family too – I bonded with one of his teenage daughters a few Christmases back when we discovered we had almost identically-manifesting forms of dyslexia – she was so relieved to finally meet someone who understood the difficulties she’d been having.

I feel so terrible for his family – this will hit them so hard.  It’ll hit my Dad hard too – he’s really close to that branch of the family.

A sad day.

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/queenstown-lakes/279533/serious-crash-closes-crown-range-road