The New Year starts now

I’ve actually been home for a few days, but they still felt like holiday days, mainly because Brother and the two boys came back to Christchurch with me.  The trip to Christchurch was their (and my!) Christmas present, because SIL had bought us all tickets to go to a Weird Al Yankovic concert.  The boys are really into his music, whereas for me it was more of a nostalgia thing – I used to listen to him back in the 80s, but didn’t even know he was still making music. The boys quickly educated me though, playing his CDs to catch me up on the last 30-odd years.

We drove up on Tuesday night, leaving Alexandra after Brother finished work.  It’s a six hour drive to Christchurch, so we were going to be very late getting in anyway, but it was made even later by stopping to fish near Twizel. Brother wanted to break up the journey a bit, plus I think it was probably the first chance he’s had to go fishing since the Christmas season started.  I couldn’t fish (you need to pay a licence fee to fish in inland waters in NZ, and it wasn’t worth buying me one just for one night), but I entertained myself taking photos until it got too dark, then reading by torchlight while the others fished.  There were definitely plenty of fish around, because we were constantly seeing them rising for insects, but they just weren’t biting. Nephew #1 was the only one who ended up catching anything – a smallish trout.

Luckily Brother is very comfortable with driving through the night (until recently he drove a delivery truck as a second job), because it was after 3 am by the time we reached Christchurch. The boys had slept most of the way from Twizel, but I stayed awake to keep Brother company. So it was a bit of a struggle getting up the next morning. When the boys woke up, I took them to a cafe for breakfast so that Brother could get some more sleep. He met us at the cafe an hour or so later, and we headed into town to the museum, which has an exhibition on of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. It was quite an interesting exhibition – they’d created 3D models of a whole load of his sketches, so you could see how they would have worked. Only a few of them were interactive, but there were computer screens where you could see some of the other models in action, which made it a lot easier to understand what was going on with the more complicated ones.

After we’d finished at the museum and wandered around town for a bit so I could show them the changes, we drove over to Dallington because Brother had to pick something up for the shop. It was quite sobering for Brother and the kids, who hadn’t seen any of the damage in the eastern suburbs before, to see how bad things still are 5 years on. Actually, it’s still quite sobering for me too – I don’t go over east very often, so I forget that the roads are still terrible, and there’s whole stretches of empty land where once houses stood.

We had pneumatic burgers (literally – they get delivered to your table via pneumatic tubes) for dinner at C1, then played tag on the ‘Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers’ sculpture until it was time for the concert.  The concert was so much fun – we were all singing along (well, the boys were – I joined in on the bits I knew :-)) and dancing in our seats, and just generally enjoying every moment of it.  Weird Al was appropriately weird, and supremely entertaining, with costume changes for nearly every song, frequent incursions into the audience, and a really good mix of old and new songs.  I was so glad SIL and Brother decided to include me in the kids’ present, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen to go myself, so would have missed out on a really fun evening.

We tried to find somewhere to go for hot chocolates after the concert, but there’s very little open in central Christchurch at 11 pm on a weeknight (that’s the trouble with demolishing most of the city centre…), so after wandering around for a while, Brother decided to hit the road.  They had to drive back that night, because Nephew #1 has just started his first holiday job, picking fruit at a berry farm, so didn’t want to miss another day of work.  It was still after midnight by the time they got away, so they would have reached Alexandra just in time for Nephew to start work – hope he got plenty of sleep in the car on the way back!

I’d intended to spend Thursday unpacking, cleaning the house, and generally getting things done ready to go back to work next week.  But after two very late nights, I ended up sleeping until nearly lunchtime, so about the only thing I achieved yesterday was taking down the Christmas tree.  But today was much more productive – I got up early and cleaned and finished unpacking, then spent the rest of the day prettying up the ratty old footstool I bought in Alexandra.

I’ve been looking for a footstool to go with my wingback armchair for ages, but haven’t been able to find exactly what I wanted.  But while I was in Alexandra, Mum came across one in a second hand shop.  It was in pretty rough condition, but I reckoned it would look ok after a coat of paint and some new upholstery, so that’s what I did today.


I forgot to take a “before” photo before I started taking it apart, but you get the general idea.


I had just enough of the chalk paint left from painting my side table to paint the legs. They definitely looked a lot nicer after several coats of paint and a finishing coat of beeswax.


When I took the old ugly fabric off the top, I discovered an even older and uglier fabric under it, and then *another* layer of even older and even uglier (and starting to rot – it was falling apart as I pulled it off) fabric under that. It had been recovered so many times it took me forever to get all the staples out.


The finished product. The fabric is a piece of proper silk damask that I bought in Damascus many many years ago, and have been hanging on to waiting for the right project to use it in. Probably using it on my first ever attempt at upholstery wasn’t the most sensible idea, but better that than have it sitting forgotten in the bottom of a trunk for all these years. And anyway, I only used about a quarter of the fabric I had, so now I know what I’m doing (or at least, all the things I did wrong on this one…), I can use the rest for something else.

I think it looks pretty good anyway, especially in its new home :-)

And with that, I’m declaring my holiday over, and it’s time to get to work. I’ve officially been enrolled for this Masters for a week now, and I’ve only done a couple of hours work on it, so from here on I need to put my head down and get on with it. So don’t expect to hear much more from me until 2017 – I’m going to be busy!

Family portraits

Going home today, but in the meantime I managed to fit a lot into the last few days of my holiday. (Note to vegetarians, vegans, and those of a delicate constitution, you probably want to skip this first paragraph).  First was a hunting expedition on Saturday night. During dinner I’d mentioned to Brother that it was a pity he was so busy (being in retail doesn’t give you a lot of free time over the Christmas period), because otherwise we could have gone out hunting together.  So he suggested we go out for a night shoot (spotlighting for rabbits), and invite Mum’s visitor along too.  It doesn’t get dark until well after 9 here, so it was a very late night (we didn’t get home until about quarter past 1), but we got about a dozen rabbits (and a stoat – they’re a pest that kills native birds, so we always shoot them if we see them, though obviously we don’t keep the meat), and I was relieved to discover I’m still a decent shot even though I haven’t been shooting for years, so I didn’t embarrass myself too badly compared to the guys :-) (Actually, according to Brother, I got the shot of the night – a head shot at extreme range.  Total fluke, but I’ll accept the praise anyway :-)) We did see some deer, and thought about shooting one too, but then brother pointed out we’d have to spend another hour gutting and butchering it if we did, and anyway he’s already got a freezer full of venison, so we let them live for another day.

It’s Dad’s 70th birthday later this week, so seeing as I’m heading home, he decided to have a birthday barbecue on Sunday.  I suggested to the kids that we make him a birthday cake, and then SIL suggested we make it a golf cake, so we spent the afternoon making and decorating it. The kids each contributed to the decorations, and although we’ll never be professional decorators, we had a lot of fun, and I think it turned out looking pretty good:


(The weird squiggles on the cake board are a heart and a smiley face – Niece put herself in charge of the writing…)

And once the candles were lit, it looked even more impressive (Brother declared it to be “golfing in the fires of Hell”):

And Dad was greatly amused by it, which is the important thing :-)

Of course, as we were having a barbecue, it turned out to be the first cold and miserable day after days of intense heat, but that just meant we ate inside, and those in charge of the barbecue had to wear warm coats to cook in.


Venison burgers!

Dad wanted a photo with all the grandchildren and grand-nephews and nieces (well, at least the small selection that were there – as he comes from a family of 11, his total number of grand-nephews and nieces is probably edging close to 100 by now). He may have had a fancy family portrait in mind, but it quickly descended into chaotic laughter, as first Brother decided he qualified as one of the kids and wanted to sit on Dad’s knee, then I handed over my camera to SIL so I could get in on the action too, then one of the smallest members of the family started crying, which set off his sister, and then Brother said something along the lines of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, so he and Nephew #1 started wailing loudly, and the final portrait ended up with everyone either crying dramatically or laughing uncontrollably. Which is as a family portrait should be :-)

Proof that Brother really is one of the kids: all completely engrossed in a Walking With Dinosaurs movie

So what with cake, photo silliness, tickle battles, and other general chaos, it was a really fun night.

Then last night we finally got to see the new Star Wars movie. In preparation, the kids and I spent the afternoon watching episodes IV-VI, while Niece and I painted (there was no way she would be able to sit through three movies without something else to distract her!). Mum and I had bought some pre-printed canvases from the Warehouse, so it was more of a colouring-in exercise than serious artistic endeavour, but they turned out looking pretty cool (I didn’t manage to get a photo of the ones Niece painted, but they were… colourful :-) )

After dinner we headed to the picture theatre. Alexandra didn’t have a theatre for many years, because the town was too small to sustain it, but in the last few years a group of volunteers have been running a theatre out of the back of the museum.  It’s very small, only a few rows of seats, but they still get in most of the big movies, so it’s been doing very well.  But being run by volunteers means not everything goes according to plan – like last night, when we turned up to find the doors locked and everyone waiting outside.  It turned out the projectionist for the previous showing had locked the keys in the office, so the evening volunteers couldn’t get in, and the only spare key was held by the museum’s director, who lives in Bannockburn, half an hour’s drive away.  So we all had to wait while he drove down to Alexandra with the key.

But being small town, nobody was particularly fazed, and we all just stood around outside chatting, and the general feeling was that it wasn’t as bad as the night the projectionist forgot to turn on the projector, so the movie had sound but no pictures…  Eventually the key arrived, and (after a bit more confusion about the tickets, because Mum had bought us vouchers, but whoever sold them to her hadn’t written it down on the right page of the notebook, so the ticket seller couldn’t tick them off on her list…) the 7.30 screening became an 8.30 screening instead.

We all enjoyed the movie tremendously, and talked excitedly all the way back to Mum’s place, where we continued our analysis over hot chocolates.  I’ve already written a first impressions review, but I can say I enjoyed it even more the second time, especially hearing the surprised gasps from either side of me at the crucial moments (I’ve managed to not let slip to any of Brother’s family that I’d already seen it :-)), and doubly especially getting to talk about it with them afterwards.  Totally transported back to being a kid again :-)

2015 in pictures

(Only slightly belatedly)

January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

Don’t be silly, I wasn’t taking photos, I had deadlines!

October:

November:

December:

So the year started and ended with family. And despite feeling like I was too busy to do anything this year, I actually packed in quite a lot. Onwards to 2016…

Random pie picture

The internet is fixed, but I didn’t end up having time to go through my pictures to pick out representatives for the year, because Mum got an unexpected visitor, the son of old friends of hers.  I haven’t seen him since we were about 12, so we spent a long afternoon catching up on each others’ news and sharing old memories.  Brother and family came round in the evening for a barbecue, which led of course to another round of catch-ups and reminiscences.

SIL brought dessert, which Mum and I declared Instagram-worthy.  And then we had to explain about the bread photos the other day, so the pie had to be appropriately posed, and we all ended up taking photos, with much laughter.

(It tasted even better than it looks!)

2015 in review

2015 is hard to summarise.  I learnt a lot, I took on some huge new challenges, but mostly it’s just been incredibly busy, and has raced past in a blur.  So rather than try and write anything meaningful about it, I’ll use my usual trick of recycling bits of blog entries :-)

So, 2015 in first sentences:

January: It’s 2015 here in New Zealand, even if most of the rest of the world is still to catch up, and has dawned a lovely sunny day after yesterday’s rain.

February: I decided to use this weekend to skip ahead a bit in the In Flight quilt-along, in an attempt to have the whole thing finished a few weeks ahead of schedule, and avoid that nasty clash with the start of semester.

March: Ok, so Tartankiwi calls it a cormorant, but I’m a New Zealander – it’s a shag :-)

April: Parsnips has obviously been out hunting today, because when I got home and walked into the kitchen, I felt a lump under my foot.

May: Yeah, I know, it’s been ages since I wrote anything.  Can I use as an excuse the fact that I’ve been really tired, AND that I have a medical excuse for being tired, so it’s not just laziness, honestly it’s not!

June: Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival.

July: Christchurch people (and anyone else who just likes to help preserve cool historic things): If any of you have fond memories of visiting the telescope in the Arts Centre Observatory on a Friday night, you might want to contribute to this fundraiser to help restore the telescope.

August: First term of the semester is over, and I handed my first big assignment in yesterday, so I can pause and relax – well, for a couple of days, at least.

September: Just very very busy.

October: There is a type of tiny quilt that is commonly called a “mug rug”.

November: Hmmm, according to my calendar, the last time I actually took a full weekend off was in August.

December: January and the start of my masters is looming large, so I’m trying to fit as much as I can into the rest of this year, before I have to be head down over the books again.

The internet here is playing up tonight, so I think I might have to leave the year in pictures part until tomorrow, when hopefully it won’t take 10 minutes just to load a page…

What I read in 2015

 Total = 112 books

January (13)

  • You Know You’re From ChCh When… compiled by Bruce Raines
  • Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Alan S Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa (library audio book)
  • Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan (e-book)
  • Drybread by Owen Marshall
  • The Chocolate Bear Burglary by JoAnna Carl (e-book)
  • Angel Sister by Ann H Gabhart (library audio book)
  • Clan Ground by Clare Bell
  • Christmas Short Stories by Charles Dickens (library audio book)
  • Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (e-book)
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (e-book)
  • A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett
  • A Death in Kitchawank and Other Stories by TC Boyle (library audio book)

February (11)

March (6)

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (library audio book)
  • The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares (library audio book)
  • The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart (library audio book)
  • The Algebraist by Iain M Banks
  • Bonkers by Michelle Holman
  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (library audio book)

April (13)

May (10)

June (9)

July (8)

  • The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell
  • My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein (library book)
  • Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris (library audio book)
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (library audio book)
  • The Best People in the World by Justin Tussing
  • Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein (library book)
  • Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang (library audio book)
  • Linguistic Fieldwork by Claire Bowern

August (10)

September (7)

October (9)

November (10)

December (6)

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?