Cucumber sandwiches and a chicken in a tree

I spent this afternoon with Harvestbird and the mini-Harvestbirds at a garden party hosted by Dorothy’s pop-up tearooms (i.e. my friend Jan, who catered my graduation party).  After cold and wet weather earlier in the week, it was a lovely afternoon sitting under the trees eating scones and cucumber sandwiches and an array of incredible cakes.  I taught the mini-Harvestbirds (plus an additional small child from a neighbouring picnic blanket) how to play petanque, but was called away from the grand championship game by Jan, to tell me I’d won a prize in the raffle: a seriously cool pair of teapot and measuring tape earrings (quilts and tea – it’s like they were made for me. Just add some cats and books, and they’d be perfect :-) )

I think the highlight for the mini-Harvestbirds was the chicken they spotted perched high in a tree (the venue was out in the semi-countryside on the edge of town). Much excited shouting of “there’s a chicken in the tree” later, they had quite a crowd of adults gathered to see the phenomenon (mutter, mutter, city people, mutter, mutter…)

The elder mini-Harvestbird was moved to compose a song about the chicken, which younger mini-Harvestbird accompanied with interpretive dance.

Hmm, I really should have videoed it, shouldn’t I?  But as you can probably tell, it was a very impassioned performance.

A very pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Talking of cucumbers, my little cucumber plants are struggling on, despite the cooler weather.  The leaves seem to be starting to die off, but despite that the plants keep valiantly producing flowers, and the actual cucumbers have more than doubled in size.  This would be more impressive if they hadn’t started out microscopic – the largest is now about 2 cm long.

Any bets on the chances of it reaching edible size before winter? Nah, thought not.

Even more incredibly, the watermelon has suddenly taken off. I realised yesterday that suddenly it wasn’t just the couple of leaves it’s been all summer – it’s grown a longish vine which is using the neighbouring mint plants for support. A vine with little buds on the end of it:

And when I got home this afternoon, those little buds had turned into watermelon flowers!

Definitely not holding my breath for actual fruit though.

As I was taking the photo of the watermelon, Parsnips really really wanted me to pay attention to her. This mostly took the form of meowing loudly and flopping dramatically on the step in front of me. Except she totally misjudged how close she was to the wall, so only her front half managed to flop, and the back was left slightly propped against the wall:

Most cats would have moved to a more comfortable position, but once Parsnips commits to a flop, she really commits.  She stayed in that position for as long as I was out there, twisting her head into maximum “aren’t I cute, now pay attention!” position while her back legs stayed standing on the lower step

Strange cat.

Slow progress

Four spools of thread gone on the Birds in Flight quilt (and they’re 500m spools, so that means there’s 2 km of quilting in this quilt already!), and still a few areas haven’t been quilted.  I thought four spools would be total overkill, but I ended up quilting pretty densely, which uses up a lot of thread (and takes forever – next quilt I’m doing with a really loose quilting design!).  So I’ve run out of thread, and finishing off the quilting on it will have to wait until I can go and buy some more of that colour thread.

Hopefully it’ll be worth it once it’s finished though. It’s hard to get a real idea of what it’s going to be like when it’s all piled up on the machine and you can’t see the full effect, but I think it’s going to look really cool.

Talking of four, there was a wee earthquake last night in the small hours – only a 4.0, but it’s a sign of how long it’s been since we’ve had any decent aftershocks that it actually woke me up fully enough that it took me a while to get back to sleep.  I remember the days when I wouldn’t wake up for anything less than a 5.0 (and no thank you, I really don’t want those days to be back again!!)

Cicada season has begun, which means that (a) sitting out in the garden can get quite deafening, and (b) Parsnips keeps catching them and bringing them inside.  Being woken by a cicada loudly protesting at being pestered by a cat is almost as disturbing as being woken by an earthquake.  They also have a tendency to escape from her and end up in hard to reach places like behind the fridge.  I can report that fridges have absolutely no muffling effect on the sound of a cicada.

So far

Things I like about my new phone

  1. I can talk to it!  And it knows what I’m saying (mostly – there’s a few NZ vowel sounds it struggles with still (setting an alarm for 10 pm is something I’m yet to achieve – that lovely NZE [e] vowel in ten just confuses the poor thing…)) and does things when I tell it to.  There’s something so satisfying about waking up and saying “Hey Google, what’s the forecast” to find out what the weather’s like (yeah, I know I could just look out the window, but where’s the fun in that?).
  2. Google maps knows when my next bus is going to arrive.  And even better, it can tell where my nearest bus stop is, and tell me which buses will arrive there next, so I don’t have to try and find the bus stop number.   So I don’t have to do the “The timetable says a bus should have passed here 3 minutes ago, but they’re often late, so there’s a chance it could still turn up, so maybe I should wait, but if it’s already passed then the next one won’t be for half an hour, so it might be quicker to walk” calculation I’m constantly doing at stops that don’t have an arrivals indicator (which is most of them).
  3. I can download e-books from the library!  And audiobooks! (I could do that already, but I was limited to the ones that were in the correct format to play on my little mp3 player, so this opens up the range of audiobooks I can borrow enormously! Technically I could also download e-books before, but (because Amazon’s complicated licencing agreements) I couldn’t read them on my Kindle, so my only option was to read them on my computer, and you can’t cosy up in a comfy chair with a computer.)
  4. I had lunch with Jacq yesterday and they showed me a magic trick: you can write a text by swiping across the keyboard instead of typing each character individually.  I have no idea how it manages to figure out which word I meant from my vague swipey motions in roughly the direction of the right letters, but it does (mostly – it gets a bit confused if you like to make up words like swipey).
  5. My search for a protective cover (it took me about a day of carrying it around to realise the chances of me dropping it/banging it into something/crushing it by having too many books in my bag were very high, and that this would make me anxious if I didn’t do something about it) led me to the discovery that there are very many very cool phone cases out there.  I settled on this one for now (well I had to – it’s a cat wearing glasses and drinking hot chocolate (yeah, it’s probably supposed to be coffee, but I don’t like coffee), and as a bonus, the cat looks like Parsnips!), but I suspect my phone will end up having several outfits it can change into according to mood.  Who knew a phone would have so many options to decorate it?
  6. I can take photos (like important photos of my phone case to put in my blog) even when I don’t have my camera with me.  Which is a good thing, because my big camera is big.  And heavy.  So I only carry it when I’m going somewhere I think I’ll want to take photos.  Which means when spontaneous photo opportunities happen, I’ll actually be able to take photos of them (and yes, I know everyone who has a smart phone has been telling me this for ever, but it wasn’t a big enough reason to buy a smart phone.  But now that I have one, it’s a nice bonus.)  The photos aren’t as good as I could take on my real camera, of course (I would hope not, given how much I paid for it!), but they’re good enough for quick snapshots.  My big camera will still be accompanying me on my travels and to places I know I’ll want to take real photos, though!

Things I don’t like about my new phone

  1. It’s very distracting.  Because it can do so many things, the temptation is to be constantly using it – I can understand now why teenagers are constantly on their phones.  I’m hoping the novelty will wear off soon though and I’ll stop finding excuses to play with it.
  2. My pockets aren’t big enough.  I could carry my old phone (which was tiny) around in my pocket if I needed to, but this one won’t fit (or, it will, but it hangs out of the top and I’m scared it’ll fall out).  So if I want to take it with me, I have to either carry it in my hand, or in my bag, which means I always have to carry my bag (which I generally do anyway, because my bag is where I carry books, and being stuck somewhere without a book to read is my worst nightmare).
  3. It doesn’t understand the difference between ten and tin in a NZ accent (see above, although honestly, I’m impressed it can understand a NZ accent at all – voice recognition has come a long way!)
  4. Having an actual app to read library e-books and audiobooks means I have to return them on time.  I’m so used to uploading a few at a time to my mp3 player (which isn’t sophisticated enough to have DRM, so keeps playing them even after they expire), and only removing them once they’re finished, instead of at the end of the loan period.  I’m sure I’ll cope, though.
  5. If I have it too close to my bus card, it starts beeping at me (presumably it’s trying to read the RFID in the card?).  So I can’t use the card slots in the nice new case I bought for it as intended (because if I keep my bus card separate to my other cards, I’m sure to forget to bring it with me, and I never have the right change to pay cash on the bus).

Yeah, pretty minor complaints, really.  So on balance, I think the phone was a good purchase.  (All of you who’ve spent the last several years telling me to get a proper phone may now say “I told you so”)

But isn’t my new phone case cool? :-)

Mercy killing

Meet Parsnips’ latest victim:

A very tiny (the ruler is in inches), and thanks to Parsnips, very dead, baby sparrow .

Actually, technically I was the murderer, as I had to break the poor wee thing’s neck. Parsnips brought it in a few minutes ago, and was happily tossing it around the study. It was very obviously alive, but not able to fly (I don’t know if it was ever able to fly – it looks like it’s barely a fledgling), and also obviously injured enough that rescuing it wasn’t going to be an option.  I felt horribly cruel killing it (with my bare hands, no less), but Parsnips is much too well fed to finish it off herself, so letting her keep playing with it was going to be the much crueller option.

Parsnips was very unimpressed with my act of mercy, and has stalked off back outside (I suspect to see if she can find any more baby birds to play with…)


Ok, so it’s been another really hot day.  So that explains why Parsnips has chosen to sleep in the open window, in the little bit of breeze that’s blowing in now that the sun is going down.

What it doesn’t explain is why she feels the need to sleep with her head jammed against the window frame.  It does not look comfortable.

Books and cats and quilts (what else is there?)

Alkaline-kiwi was in Christchurch this weekend, so we had a Bookcrossing meetup this morning.  It was great to catch up with her – plus, of course, the injection of new books into the meetup group is always appreciated :-)  As so often happens, I came home with as many books as I’d gone with, so my to-be-read pile has grown quite a bit.

I picked up:

The other thing that keep growing is my list of quilt projects I want to try. I really must stop watching YouTube videos – I keep getting inspired and adding more ideas to my list.  At least it means I never get bored – I seem to always have several quilts on the go, plus more lined up to start when I want to try something new (which is always – I’m definitely easily distracted by every shiny new thing that comes along…)

Which is all preamble to lead into the the fact that I started another quilt this afternoon.  The other jelly roll was calling to me, so after much deliberation I decided to try a “Three Dudes” quilt, similar to this one (although I’ve altered the pattern a bit).

I spent most of the afternoon just working out the details of the pattern, and then grouping the strips into sets so that the different colours and patterns would be nicely distributed through the quilt (the version in the photo below went through several more changes before I got to the final one), and cutting strips of white fabric to add to them to make up strip sets.

I only got half way through sewing the 10 strip sets I’ll need for the quilt. Once they’re done, they need to be cut up and then sewn back together again a couple of times to make the final blocks, so there’s probably another weekend or two’s work to finish the complete quilt top. Assuming I don’t get distracted by some other project in the meantime… :-)

Gratuitous cat photo of Parsnips sulking on the windowsill because I kept moving her off the sunny spot on my cutting mat on the totally unreasonable grounds that I wanted to cut fabric, not the cat. I also won’t let her jump up on my ironing board, because I’m scared one day she’ll jump up there while the iron is on. I am such a horrible person!

I remembered…

So many projects on my once-my-thesis-is-finished list, I really didn’t know where to start.  But I felt like playing with colour, so I pulled out my not-quite-finished Birds in Flight quilt (Wow, it’s nearly two years since I finished the top, and I still haven’t quilted it!  Probably because I got over-ambitious about what I wanted to do with the three extra birds, and then promptly ran out of time to actually execute those plans.  I suppose the good news is that in the meantime I’ve learnt a lot more about FMQ, so I’m feeling a lot more confident that when I get to the actual quilting part, I’ll be able to do a reasonable job of it).

It was so nice to just spend a day playing with fabric, and not feeling like I had to rush to get as much as possible done in the few hours of free time I’d allowed myself, or feel guilty because I should be using the time to work.  I could take my time and experiment, and just enjoy the process – a great feeling!

At one point during the day, I heard purring coming from the cupboard where I store my fabric and stuff.  When I investigated, I found this:

I’m sure I’d closed that box up last time I used anything out of it, but obviously Parsnips has learnt how to push the flaps of a cardboard box apart so she can get inside.  From the amount of fur over everything in there, it looks like she’s been using it as a comfy bed for quite some time… Hope you didn’t want your ribbon stash back, Lytteltonwitch! (or, if you do, you don’t mind a bit of added fluffiness).  I’m glad I keep my actual quilting fabric in a set of drawers – she hasn’t figured out how to open those yet!

Birds and bus delinquents

Evidence that spring is here: I came home tonight to a house full of feathers.  So many feathers that I was sure Parsnips must have caught a blackbird, or possibly an albatross.  But when I followed the trail of feathers in and out of several rooms, and finally found the victim under my desk, it turned out to be a very young (and very dead) sparrow.  The poor thing can’t have been much beyond its first flight (which probably explains how Parsnips managed to catch it – she’s not the most able hunter, so it was probably more a case of the bird accidentally stumbling into her jaws, rather than any determined act of hunting on her part).

In the “another reason to lose faith in humanity” category, a month or so ago I was catching the bus home very late one night when I encountered two very drunk very young teenage girls (like only barely in their teens young).  They were happy drunk rather than aggressive drunk, and started chatting to me about what a fun night they’d been having.  They said they lived in Avonside (which is way over the other side of town), and were plotting how to sneak onto the bus without paying, because they’d lost their bus cards (in some long and complicated story), and had spent all their cash.

Of course, “I’ve lost my bus card” is a well-known scam for getting money out of gullible people, and normally I would have just said I couldn’t help and left them at the bus stop.  But, as I said, it was late at night, and they were drunk, and young, and I kept thinking about all the things that can happen to drunk and vulnerable young girls at poorly-lit bus stops late at night, so I decided the cost of a couple of bus fares was worth it to not spend the rest of the night wondering if they were ok, so when the bus arrived I told them I’d pay their fares, as long as they promised they would go straight home.  They were surprised and grateful (in a way that made me think they really had just been telling me the story as a cool story, not because they were begging), and (after a bit of negotiation with the bus driver, who was understandably concerned that they might be sick on the bus), we all got on the bus.  When I got off at my stop, I asked the (female) bus driver to keep an eye on them and make sure they got off in Avonside, and all seemed good.

Except, last Sunday night I caught the same bus, and the driver recognised me, and told me the story of what happened after I got off.  Apparently they got as far as Shirley (about another half an hour on from my stop) before robbing one of the other passengers and assaulting the bus driver when she tried to intervene.  She’d had to call the police to get them removed from the bus :-(  I was horrified, and apologised to her for having inflicted the girls on her, but she said she didn’t blame me at all, because I was just trying to do the right thing and wasn’t to know.  The really sad thing was that she said it didn’t even surprise her, after everything she’d seen driving the bus at night.

So yeah, so much for my good deed – all it did was ruin the poor bus driver’s night.

Bringing balance to the weekend

Yay for five-day weekends! (Tuesday is a university holiday, on top of the usual Easter public holidays).  I’ll admit my first instinct was to treat the long weekend as three extra days I could spend in my office coding my data (a long and laborious process – I’ve got tens of thousands of instances of “of” or “-‘s” in my data, and I’ve got to manually go through each of them and decide whether it represents a possessive or not (not as easy a decision as you might think: “the roof of the house” definitely is, but what about “the middle of eating lunch”, “that kind of thing” or “lots of rubble”? (spoiler: they’re all technically possessives.  But “all of a sudden”, “sort of screamed”, and “full of water” aren’t.)), and then I have to classify the ones that are possessive according to a long list of criteria that seemed sensible when I designed my methodology but now I’m faced with actual data seems overwhelmingly huge.  Plus, people don’t speak properly!  I wish I had nice data like “the roof of the house”.  What I actually get is something like “and then um the the the r~ the top ah you know the roof f~ the roof of of the um the h~ the house you know sort of fell”, and I’ve got to somehow figure out which bit of that is the possessive.  When you’re reading the nice examples in textbooks, they never mention that nobody actually talks like that! (sorry, my quick aside seems to have turned into a rant about data.  So, back to what I was trying to say…)).  However (as may be evidenced by the preceding brackets), I realised it’s probably about time I had something resembling a break, so I compromised on doing *some* study but not an excessive amount, and spread out over the whole long weekend (rather than my usual system of spending one whole day of my weekend studying).  Trying to find a balance between actually enjoying the weekend (not that I don’t enjoy studying, but it is tiring) and not feeling guilty about wasting this opportunity to get all this extra study done.

Anyway, it seems to be working ok so far.  On Friday I did the housework, then went into my office for a couple of hours, then met Lytteltonwitch in town so we could have dinner at the food trucks in the Square, because it was their last Friday night before shutting down for the winter.  We tried also to go and see Ornot’s new play, but the booking office was closed when we first tried, and then when we went back later they’d just sold out.  Oh well, should have been more organised and booked online…

On Saturday I walked over to a cafe for breakfast, did a couple more hours work, then came home and baked some biscuits.  Half the biscuits I took round to the Gwilks’ that night for the games evening they were hosting.  They wanted to introduce various parts of their friends groups who didn’t intersect to each other, so I didn’t know any of the other people there, but games are a good way to get to know new people without all the awkward “so… what do you do…” small talk, so it was a really fun evening.  Made even more fun by their cat deciding to bring a small rat inside in the middle of proceedings.  The rat of course managed to escape the cat’s clutches, run up the curtains and leap from curtain-rail to shelf around the room, causing much chaos as everyone tried to alternatively catch it or just get as far away from it as possible.

After the late night on Saturday, I decided to take yesterday off entirely.  So I spent the morning sewing.  I don’t think I’ve shown you pictures of my latest project (not that I really need a new project, because I’ve still got the Birds in Flight quilt to finish, but that’s at a stage that requires much thought and planning, and I wanted something that I could just work on a little bit at a time when I’ve got an hour or two spare).  I finished the last of the blocks for it yesterday, but I’ve still got to do all the sashing yet.

The background fabric is a much nicer shade of green than it seems in that photo, honestly, it’s just taken in bad light. It’s actually a really fresh spring green, that goes great (I think) with the bright colours I’m using.

Then in the afternoon I went over to Harvestbird’s with the other half of the biscuits, to eat cake, peaches, and easter eggs (the mini-Harvestbirds had had an easter egg hunt in the morning, resulting in a considerable haul, so adult Harvestbirds were working on the theory that it’s better to get as much of the chocolate consumption over with as quickly as possible, and suffer one day of hyperactive children rather than drag it out for weeks), and sit in the sun (well, in theory, anyway. The mini-Harvestbirds were very excited to have me visit, so I spent a lot of my visit playing with them (hmm, maybe that’s why they’re always so excited to have me visit…) – so I had to push them (and their imaginary friends!) on the swing, take part in ballet practice, say hello to a pink diamond with a face (called “Diamondy”, of course), and help build an elaborate lego ice palace for the diamond, to protect her from attacks by Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons (it all made sense at the time, possibly?). Harvestbird took a photo of the ice palace (Flickr won’t let me embed it for some reason – possibly because you’ve licenced it copyright, Harvestbird?).

The plan for today and tomorrow is similar.  Once I’ve finished writing this I’ll head into my office for a few hours again, then maybe have a late lunch somewhere nice, and tomorrow I might take advantage of having a day off when everyone else is back at work to go into Riccarton.  Maybe I’ll even do something drastic like see a movie!

While I’m posting photos, here’s my shiny new suitcase.  For most trips to conventions when I’m just going for a few days and am carrying more books than clothes, I normally take my yellow bookcrossing bag, but it’s not really big enough for longer trips. And my battered old suitcase that I’ve had since I was 19 is really on its last legs – the wheels fell off years ago, and I don’t think it can survive another long-haul.  So I bought myself a new suitcase the other day.  But it was a bit boring, and looked like every other suitcase in the world.  And the advantage of my yellow bookcrossing bag, and even more so of my old suitcase (which I’d extensively decorated with that puffy foam paint that everyone decorated their clothes with back in the 80s), was that they stand out really well on baggage carousels.  Who needs to tie an identifying piece of ribbon to your bag when your entire bag is decorated? :-)

So the solution was obvious.  Buy a packet of sticky foam shapes, and make my new suitcase a bit more interesting:

Ok, so half of them will probably fall off before I get home, but in the meantime it’ll be distinctive :-)

And finally, a photo of Parsnips with her bald patch:

And Parsnips mid-yowl, complaining that I’m wasting time taking her photo when I could be scratching her under the chin, which in her opinion is one of the only two reasons humans have hands (the other, of course, being to open the fridge door).

Cat mat

There is a type of tiny quilt that is commonly called a “mug rug”.  Except, in my house apparently it would be more appropriately called a “cat mat”.

“What? It looked comfortable.”

I have decided that Parsnips follows a definite set of rules when deciding whether to sit on something:

Truth condition Probability of cat sitting on
Thing exists 80%
Thing looks marginally more comfortable than surrounding things 90%
Thing contains words which human is trying to read 95%
Thing has a surface which shed fur will adhere to particularly well 100%
Thing has a surface which shed fur will adhere to particularly well, and it’s moulting season 105%
Sitting on Thing will cause human to inhale or ingest cat dander, and have allergic reaction 110%


  1. Where more than one truth condition entails, probabilities are cumulative
  2. Some mathematicians may tell you that it is impossible to have a probability over 100%. Parsnips has never let this stop her.