Phase 2

Six jars of cherry and apple chutney.

So I’ve got no housework done (except for cleaning the kitchen to remove all the stickiness – the cutlery drawer hasn’t been this tidy in ages!), but I reckon I’ve had a pretty productive weekend :-)

Busy bottling

Dad sent me a text a few days ago, saying friends of his were coming up to Christchurch, so he’d given them some apricots to drop off to me.  Cool, thought I, there might be enough to bottle some of them – I love bottled apricots, and the tinned ones from the supermarket just aren’t the same. So I dug out a few preserving jars in preparation, and made sure I had sugar on hand.

Yeah, I forgot that Dad’s use of the word “some” tends to mean the same thing as when someone says the Pacific ocean is “quite big”:

There were a few cherries, too:

Don’t be fooled by the scale into thinking that’s a small bag – it’s a full supermarket bag.  What makes it look smaller is that those aren’t the usual tiny cherries you buy in the local supermarket – they’re the full on huge cherries grown for the export market, which not many NZers outside Central Otago ever get to sample.

All seconds, of course, but mostly only because of a bit of water splitting or branch rubbing, which doesn’t affect the taste in the slightest – it just makes them not look quite so pretty.

They were perfectly ripe too, which meant they’d only have a couple of days before they started to go off.  So I took a bag of each into work on Friday to share round the team, and then this morning I set to work bottling the rest.

And after a full day’s work (it doesn’t help that my biggest stockpot can only hold 4 jars at a time, so the waterbath stage has to be done in shifts), one broken jar, sticky syrup spread all over the kitchen (including, after one badly misjudged pouring, all through the cutlery drawer), several scalds to my hands and one to my armpit (don’t ask – the fluid dynamics of boiling water are really complex, especially when you’re trying to carefully lower hot jars into nearly-overflowing pots of it – splashes go in strange and unpredictable directions), and an emergency run to the supermarket by the wonderful Mr Harvestbird for more jars and sugar when I ran out and texted Harvestbird in a panic, here’s the finished product:

That’s 16 jars of apricots, and two of cherries.  Some of which will be going to the Harvestbirds in gratitude for them interrupting their weekend to aid me in my time of shortage.  Oh, and miracle of miracles, all but one jar actually sealed!  And that one jar was only a failure because I forgot that I’ve got three jars which are a different type, so need a gold ring instead of the green ones the others take, so it wasn’t screwed down tight enough at the critical moment.  Oh well, just means I’ll have to eat that one quickly… :-)

And there’s still about a kilo of cherries left, which I’m thinking may have to be turned into chutney.  But that’s a job for tomorrow – I’m utterly exhausted right now!

Weekend wanderings

As you can probably tell from the sudden drop-off in blog posts, life is very much back into the normal pattern of work, work, and more work, and feeling like there’s not enough hours in the day to get everything done I want to (and term hasn’t even started yet, so there’s still study to add to the mix…).  Although I was actually intending to sit down and write a blog post on Sunday afternoon… and then the power went off.  So I read a book instead :-)

I spent Saturday exploring the central city.  The RISE festival is on, so there’s all sorts of interesting street art springing up in unexpected places, as well as the usual constant flux that is central Christchurch, as the demolition (and very occasional rebuilding) continues.  Always something new to see.

“Official” street art (if that’s not a contradiction):

This artwork, Julia Morison’s ‘Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers’, has been around for a while, but for some reason I’ve never stumbled across it before now:

I think this hi-viz-wrapped tree has been around even longer (I’m sure I saw photos of it ages ago), but again, the first time I’ve seen it in the “flesh”:

And then there’s the unintentional art of partially-demolished buildings:

The flooded basement of that one held a surprise. Along with the usual contingent of road-cones and rubbish tossed over the fence, a pair of ducks.  I had to look twice to check they weren’t real, but no, they’re hunting decoys.  I love these little touches of humour that brighten up the rubble in random places.

The Town Hall was never a pretty building, but it has a weird attractiveness these days in its overgrown state:

I discovered a few new-to-me Gapfiller sites in my wandering, too.

The Sound Garden, with instruments made from recovered/recycled materials:

This was my favourite – bells made from old fire extinguishers (it was amazingly well tuned!):

The Weaveorama asks passersby to weave in any random materials they want, to create a collective artwork.  It’s already full of weird and wonderful things – as well as fabric and plastic strips, and bits of plants, there were things like bus tickets and even a couple of jandals woven in.  The woman who designed it was working on it while I was there, so I stopped for a chat.  She commented that they hadn’t had a bra woven in yet – on Monday I saw someone tweeting a photo of it, and sure enough, there was a bra…

She had a bag of fabrics with her, so I added a few strips of it as my contribution:

Near Alice’s there’s a bike safety training course, again made out of recovered materials:

I went and had a look at the cardboard cathedral (we’re supposed to call it the “Transitional Cathedral” now, but the cardboard name has stuck :-))

It looks quite good from the outside, but what struck me inside is that they’ve got it arranged the wrong way.  It tapers in from the wide “stained-glass” (it’s just printed, not proper stained glass) end, to a narrower end that is plain, with just a large cross made of cardboard tubes decorating it.  And they’ve put the altar at the narrow boring end, so all the seats of course face that way.  Which seems all wrong to me, if the aim of religious architecture is to inspire awe in people (which is why cathedrals are always so high-ceilinged).  Standing at the altar looking back was much more awe-inspiring, with the walls broadening out, then that vast expanse of stained glass.  Instead, sitting in the seats you see the walls narrowing in and it feels like you’re in a much smaller space than you actually are.  Harvestbird, who knows such things, suggested it’s maybe because the altar is supposed to face east in Anglican churches, but (as you can see from the Port Hills behind) the cathedral’s actually aligned north-south, so that can’t be the reason.  Maybe the Bishop just is scared nobody will listen to her if there’s something more interesting to look at :-)

Other randomness:


A pumpkin growing along the security fence around the Theatre Royal.


We’ve had pop-up malls, and pop-up cafes, now a pop-up gym in a shop in New Regent Street.

Handsewing averted

I finished the quilt!  And thanks to a few hints and tips from Dancingstar I managed to do it without a single stitch of the dreaded handsewing (for which I am truly thankful, because it was a really long way around that binding even on a machine – if I’d had to do it by hand, it would have taken me weeks!)

I’m quite proud of my efforts:


I’ve had the kids staying with me for a few days – Brother and SIL were going up to Blenheim for a wedding, so they dropped the kids off with me on their way through on Thursday night (I took Friday off work), and picked them up again on their way home on Saturday afternoon.  It’s the first time I’ve had all three kids to stay on their own, and it went really well – we had loads of fun, they were (mostly) really well behaved, and I was utterly shattered by the end of the visit.  We went swimming (even though the city council chose that day to shut down all the hydroslides and outdoor pools at Jellie Park for some reason), explored Riccarton Mall, made popcorn and watched a DVD (in lieu of going to a movie, because there was nothing showing that the boys wanted to see that was age-appropriate for Niece), played Playstation games, and of course, spent many many hours playing Minecraft.  And Niece and I even fitted in a visit to the playground and feeding the ducks while the boys were still fast asleep on Friday morning.

Things I learnt:

  • Distances increase exponentially when walking with children.  Jellie Park is a very long way away.
  • When you haven’t been swimming in years, even mucking around in the learners’ pool with a 4 year old uses a lot of muscles you forgot you had.
  • The learners’ pool is very shallow, and is very sore on the knees every time you forget that fact.
  • Jellie Park is a very very very long way away when you’re carrying home a 4 year old who was so tired she fell asleep over her lunch after spending the morning swimming.
  • The best way to get an overtired but determined not to miss out on anything 4 year old to go to bed is to pretend that everyone is going to bed straight after dinner because we’re all so tired (yawn, yawn), wait 5 minutes after her head hits the pillow until she’s fast asleep, then return to playing Minecraft with the boys.
  • There is no effective way to get the boys to go to bed.  It’s easiest just to give up and go to bed yourself and leave them playing Minecraft.  They’ll either eventually put themselves to bed, or they’ll fall asleep at the computer.
  • The best way to get the house tidy at the end of a visit is to tell the kids they can’t play Minecraft until their sleeping bags and camp stretchers are folded up and put away, their bags are repacked, and the breakfast dishes are done.  Suddenly they become super-efficient workers!
  • The downside of utterly spoiling the kids by letting them eat takeaways and junk food for every meal is that you have to eat it too, so by Saturday night you’ll be seriously craving a salad.

Photos from the weekend

I didn’t have time to post these the other night, but here’s a few photos from the afternoon at Little River.  Pretty much the essence of summer:

I would be incredibly jealous of their house, which is a lovely wee cottage in the classic NZ early settlers style, but then I remember how far they have to live from town to have their lovely wee cottage, and the several hours of commuting they have to do every day, and suddenly I really like my boring 1950s brick house in the suburbs :-)

Monday tomorrow

Where did the time go?  Suddenly two weeks have raced past and my holiday is over :-(  I haven’t achieved half of what I’d intended to (of course), but I have had a lovely break, got a few things done, and spent some pleasant times with friends, and really, what more can you ask from a holiday?

On Thursday I had dinner with the Gwilks, followed (naturally) by board games.  No matter how often I play with them, they always have new games to introduce me to (I have no idea how large their collection is, but it seems enormous!), so I’m always at a slight disadvantage, but generally the games are enough fun that I don’t mind losing (and actually, I did manage to win a couple of them on Thursday night, so I was feeling pretty proud of myself – even if a lot of it came down to sheer luck!).  There was another friend of theirs there who hadn’t played any of the games before either, so we were able to commiserate with each other when one or the other of us came last yet again.

Mini-Gwilk, who’s a similar age to Nephew #1, was wearing a Minecraft t-shirt, and was most impressed when I recognised it and said I played.  I was dragged off to the computer to admire his latest builds, and we shared game tips for a while before I gently pointed out that I was actually there to visit his parents, and perhaps I should go back and talk to them… :-)  I don’t think he’d ever encountered an adult who he could talk to about Minecraft before.

Yesterday I went out to Little River to a barbecue at Helen’s place (that was where I’d been invited for New Year’s, so accepting an invitation for an afternoon instead was my compromise).  It was a nice small gathering – just Helen and her husband, a friend of theirs from Auckland, and a couple I knew through the union (plus associated children).  It was a lovely day for sitting in the garden, so that’s how we spent most of the afternoon, chatting and browsing art books, and drinking Pimms (well, the others were – I had one glass then topped it up with soft drink for the rest of the time.  I don’t drink often enough to cope with more than one glass, especially on a hot afternoon!).

Helen had borrowed a data projector, so had suggested screening some movies once it got dark enough, but the union couple wanted to get their toddler home to bed and left before then, so I grabbed a lift back to Christchurch with them.

And now I really should get myself to bed – early start tomorrow…

Lookit what I did!

Amazingly, I actually made a decision.  And not only that, I sewed the blocks together, so now I’m committed to that decision (well, I suppose if I was really determined to change my mind I could always break out the quick-unpick, but yeah, nah).

Not all the squares line up properly, and it doesn’t quite lie flat, but I’m pretty happy with it for a first attempt.  And if you squint your eyes enough you don’t see all the problems, just the pretty colours 😉

Now all I have to do is add some wadding and backing (actually, I might have to go and buy a piece of fabric to use for the backing first – I don’t think I’ve got anything big enough), then do the actual quilting bit (which I’m still not all that confident about), and then the really scary bit (because it involves hand sewing), binding the edges.  Good thing I’ve still got about a month to get it done…

What I read in 2013

Total: 129 books

January (17)

  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (e-book)
  • The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel)
  • Live Alone and Like It by Marjorie Hillis
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire by Derek Landy (borrowed from Nephew)
  • The Favoured Child by Philippa Gregory (library audio book)
  • Save Yourself, Mammal! by Zach Weiner (cartoons, e-book)
  • The Most Dangerous Game by Zach Weiner (cartoons, e-book)
  • Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones (e-book)
  • Attack of the Bacon Robots by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (cartoons, e-book)
  • The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer
  • Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy (borrowed from Nephew)
  • Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith (library audio book)
  • House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (e-book)
  • Seize the Day by Saul Bellow (library audio book)
  • These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
  • Wizard by John Varley (borrowed from Jenny)

February (9)

March (13)

  • The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielson (library audio book)
  • Chair Person by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (cartoons, e-book)
  • And Did Those Feet by Charlie Connelly (library audio book)
  • Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • Summer School by Domenica de Rosa (library audio book)
  • Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren (library audio book)
  • Invasion by Mercedes Lackey, Steve Libbey, Cody Martin, and Dennis Lee (e-book)
  • Dapper Caps and Pedal-Copters by David Malki! (cartoons, e-book)
  • My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler (library audio book)
  • Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau (library audio book)
  • Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey (e-book)

April (7)

May (6)

  • The Sylvia Chronicles by Nicole Hollander (cartoons)
  • Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (e-book)
  • Nerd Prom by Joshua Anderson (e-book)
  • Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid (e-book)
  • What We Saw by Ryan Casey (e-book)
  • Lucia by Andrea di Robilant (library audio book)

June (12)

July (11)

August (11)

September (7)

October (13)

November (10)

December (13)

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?