Getting creative with waste

I spent a lovely day today with Pieta at a Christmas craft workshop run by Rekindle.  Rekindle were set up after the earthquakes to try and make use of some of the huge amount of waste from demolished buildings.  They’ve expanded now to find ways of making use of all sorts of what they call “undervalued resources” – things that would normally end up in landfill.

The first thing we learnt in the workshop was how to turn kouka (cabbage tree – for the foreigners, think a flax bush on stilts) leaves into string and rope.  Cabbage tree leaves are definitely something most gardeners consider waste – the trees drop the long stringy leaves all year round, and they’re notorious for getting wrapped around the blades of lawnmowers, and being incredibly tough (so they can’t even be composted).  So perfect for making rope out of – you just twist up a couple of leaves (or thin strips of leaves for string), then twist them around each other in the other direction, and the opposing tensions of the two twists hold the fibres together really strongly – it’s the way rope has been made for centuries (and still is, but now there’s big machines for doing the twisting).

Once we all had long lengths of string made, and even longer lengths of rope, we moved on to making wrapping paper – or rather, decorating offcuts of brown paper that had come from industrial waste.  Armed with a selection of paints, and wooden shapes to use as stamps, we got creative, painting and stamping our sheets of paper (and card, to use for gift cards) in all sorts of festive ways.

While the paint was drying (which actually only took a few minutes in the continuing heat wave), we made wreaths – weaving a base from basket willow, and then wrapping it in the kouka rope we’d made earlier. More wooden shapes (which Rekindle produce in great quantities from timber offcuts, and mostly sell as Christmas decorations) were distributed to decorate the wreaths, but I chose to use the ones I’d been using to stamp with, because I liked the way the leftover paint on the stamp side looked.

Even though we were all using the same basic techniques to create our wreaths, they all ended up looking very different – as well as them varying in size and thickness, some people went for super tidy and tightly wound, and others went for a wild and natural look, leaving all the stray ends of the leaves poking out. Mine was somewhere in the middle – definitely not totally neat and tidy, but I did trim some of the wilder loose ends down a bit. (As you see, it’s already hanging in pride of place on my door, replacing the cheap plastic wreath from the Warehouse that used to sit there.)

After a break for lunch, our next craft was turning some of our wrapping paper into Christmas crackers. We’d been told to bring along any little gifts we wanted to put inside the crackers (and some toilet roll inners, if we could, to form the inside part of the cracker, although they had plenty there for anyone who didn’t bring their own). We used the kouka string we’d made earlier to tie the ends of the crackers, so the only part of them that wasn’t recycled or handmade was the cracker pulls (the bit that makes them go bang when you pull them) – the instructor said she’d had to buy them, because she’s never figured out a way to make them (although in theory it wouldn’t be that hard – hmm, now who do I know who sells gunpowder? :-) ). I was really pleased with how mine turned out:

That was, in theory, the end of the workshop, but because we still had some time the instructor showed us how to do a little bonus craft, making stars from basket willow, tied together with yet more strands of cabbage tree leaves. I wasn’t as successful at making the stars – it was really hard to get the tension right tying them off, and I kept either snapping the cabbage tree strands because I’d pulled them too tight, or having the entire thing unravel on me, so I gave up after making a couple of them. Plus it was getting really hot in the workshop space we were in, and I was starting to feel a bit crafted out – I think if I’d tried making them at the start of the day I would have had more patience with them.

So that was my day of non-consumerist creativity.  Despite being long, hot and a bit tiring, it was definitely worth doing – loads of fun (and the nice thing about making things out of “junk” is that nobody expects it to turn out perfect :-) ).

Being realistic

Remember those Christmassy mini-quilts I was making?  That I was going to give to pretty much everyone I know?  Yeah, they’re still sitting in a pile next to my sewing machine, half-quilted.  And there is no way I’m going to get them finished by Christmas.  As usual, I totally under-estimated how long each would take, and also, didn’t take into account things like being away in Wellington for a week, and perpetual toothache (and then surgery recovery) tiring me out so I wasn’t feeling inspired to sit down at the sewing machine in the evenings, and, of course, the heat, which definitely hasn’t been conducive to spending time in my hot and stuffy little sewing room.

Maybe, if I spent every spare minute between now and Christmas working on them, I could get most of them finished, but I’m already in panic mode at work with a couple of major project deadlines, so being in panic mode at home too probably isn’t the best idea.  So I’ve decided to finish off the one that I was planning on using for a Secret Santa gift (but not stress if I can’t, because I can always run down to Church Corner in my lunch-break and buy something from the $2 shop if necessary), and otherwise just finish them off at leisure, and put them away for next Christmas.

So sorry if you were anticipating getting one – you’ll just have to be patient :-)


Not having to devote my afternoon to frantically quilting meant that I actually had time to put up the Christmas tree this afternoon (though really, it was almost too hot to do that – it got up to 31° earlier today, so the tree-decorating was interrupted many times for cold drink breaks).  I also had incentive in the form of a new Christmas ornament – Lytteltonwitch and I had dinner at the food trucks in the Square last night, and there was a stall there selling crafts and stuff to support the Cathedral, so I bought a really lovely (and remarkably cheap, given the work that looked like it had gone into it) wooden copy of the old cathedral’s Rose Window (which was destroyed in the earthquakes).

The “glass” in the window is actually an acetate print of part of the original stained glass from the Rose Window (though it’s a bit hard to tell in that photo, with the Christmas tree lights behind it).

I’d also bought a couple of ornaments from the Trade Aid shop in Wellington while I was up there (Trade Aid always has the most interesting selection of ornaments):

And when I pulled out the rest of the Christmas ornaments from under my bed, I realised I had another new ornament, that I’d completely forgotten about, because I didn’t put up a tree last year. It’s one I bought in Venice, from a bookbinding shop we visited, where I was seriously tempted by, but couldn’t afford, their gorgeous hand-bound journals, so bought one of the little paper angels they had on display as a (much cheaper) consolation prize. I’d put it away in the box of Christmas decorations when I got home, and then completely forgot about it, so it was a cool surprise to discover the still-wrapped package tucked in the top of the box when I opened it.

As usual, the tree as a whole is over-crowded, completely uncoordinated, and slightly chaotic, but I reckon it still looks good:

The big reveal

The mystery quilt has been handed over to its recipient, so now I can show it off here:

Given the subject matter, no prizes for guessing who it went to – Lytteltonwitch of course. When I saw the fabric (everything inside the inner purple border is a single panel of fabric) I knew I had to turn it into a quilt for her.  The big challenge was to finish it in time for Halloween, especially as I was running short of weekends in October (next weekend is the NZ/Aus Bookcrossing convention, and this weekend I was supposed to be spending most of on a couple of long walks as part of the Walking Festival, but the weather has reverted to winter again with heavy rain all weekend, so the walks got cancelled and I was left with a free weekend, which is really the only reason I managed to finish the quilt off yesterday).

The patchwork itself isn’t particularly complicated (the border is made of Courthouse Steps, with Log Cabins on the corners, which are both pretty simple blocks), but it’s the first time I’ve really done multiple borders (I don’t count the added-at-the-last-minute borders on the Flower Garden quilt, because I was very much making them up as I went along – this time I actually planned the borders in advance and worked out all the measurements so everything would fit).  In the process, I learnt that my quarter-inch foot doesn’t actually sew an exact quarter inch, although I don’t think it’s the foot at fault – I actually think my machine is slightly out of alignment.  It’s only out by about a millimetre, which isn’t a huge issue most of the time, but when you add all the millimetres in all those Courthouse Steps up, it was out by about an inch in the total length.  Which meant I had to trim the blocks next to the corners quite a bit to make them fit properly, so some of the “steps” are very narrow compared to those around them.  Luckily though it’s not really noticeable unless you know what you’re looking for, so it doesn’t spoil the quilt overall.  I’ll just have to keep the not-quarter-inch thing in mind next time I’m doing a quilt where the measurements are so crucial.

As I mentioned, I’m really proud of the quilting on this one, because I didn’t use an overall design, but quilted different sections differently so that certain parts would stand out more.  Most importantly, I stitched an outline around the skeleton, then (other than a few internal lines to keep the batting stable) left the skeleton itself unquilted, with dense quilting in the background (spiderwebs, of course :-) ), which makes the bones really stick out. It’s a bit hard to see in the photos, but in person it looks quite 3D.

I did something similar with the borders, using dense and sparse quilting to increase the contrast between the dark and light steps.  I also changed the thread colour between sections, again to keep the contrast nice and clear.

You can get a better idea of how I did the quilting by looking at the back of the quilt:

The difference to the final product between doing elaborate quilting like this and just doing an overall design is subtle, but I really like how it came out.  And, as always, I learnt a lot in the process.  Every quilt I make expands my repertoire of skills a little bit more.

Needless to say, Lytteltonwitch was very happy with her gift :-)

Oh, and the skeleton glows in the dark…


I went last night with Lytteltonwitch to see the film adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover.  I’m not sure what I thought of the movie as a whole, because it was filmed in post-earthquake Christchurch, so (just like the first time I saw the Lord of the Rings movies), seeing so many familiar places on the big screen distracted me from the actual film (I think the same was true for most people in the audience – I kept hearing whispered comments from around the theatre of “Hey, that’s…”).  I’ll probably have to see it again to judge it properly.  But a few (spoiler-free) initial thoughts:

  • Timothy Spall was really good.  A bit too good, really – he made the local actors look slightly amateurish.
  • Setting it in Christchurch (or, at least, filming it in Christchurch – I don’t think they actually say in the film that it’s Christchurch, but they mention the city being destroyed by earthquakes, so there’s not really any other western city it can be) was, I think, a good choice – the empty residential red zone provides a suitably eerie backdrop to the story.  I wonder though how audiences outside of Christchurch (and particularly, outside NZ) will respond – what’s become normal to us (an antique shop in a shipping container, half-demolished buildings left abandoned, streets with the outlines of gardens but no houses, and in particular, parts of the city being so incredibly normal when everything around them is damaged) be so weird as to be incomprehensible to outsiders?  How will outsiders read things like cordon fences and flooded streets, which have so much extra meaning to Christchurch people?
  • I haven’t read the book (yeah, I know, but it’s one of her later books, so I missed out on reading it as a kid, and she wrote so many I haven’t caught up with all of them as an adult), so I don’t know if it’s meant to be this way, or if something was lost in translation from book to film, but there were a few moments where I got really confused about what was going on – it felt like there were plot points that had been skipped over or something.
  • (Just to harp on about the landscape a bit more…)  As films always do, they took a lot of  artistic licence with the geography of the city – there’s scenes where characters walk from what looks like Bexley to the CBD in a few minutes (it’s about 10 km in reality), and buildings that are far apart (in time as well as space – in one scene a couple of the characters are on a balcony looking across the city.  Right below them is a building under construction – except I know that when that building was at that stage of construction, the building they’re supposed to be in (which they definitely weren’t in, because it was earthquake-damaged so would be too dangerous, and it’s on the other side of town anyway) had already been demolished…).  None of this detracts from the film though (unless you know Christchurch well, of course, when it’s a bit distracting – again, I heard a few whispered comments in the audience of “How did they get there so fast?”).  It mostly just amused me, seeing how they’d warped the city to fit the needs of the plot or atmosphere (or just logistics – there’s one scene that shows an ambulance travelling along Hagley Avenue towards Christchurch Hospital, but when it arrives, it’s at Princess Margaret (an old, mostly abandoned, hospital on the edge of town) – obviously they couldn’t film at the real hospital because it would be too disruptive).

So yeah, I need to see it again (and probably read the book) to really decide whether or not I liked it.  If any of you (especially the foreigners) get to see it, I’ll be really interested to hear your thoughts.

22nd

Today was the sixth anniversary of the 22 February earthquake.  The big event for the day was the unveiling of the new memorial wall, much discussed and debated over the last few years.  We needed a blog post for CEISMIC, so I offered to go to the ceremony and write up my impressions.  I won’t repeat what I wrote there, but, just because it’s pretty, here’s another photo from the ceremony that didn’t make it into the official blog:

And a sign I was amused by when I stopped to get lunch on my way back to work (do you think maybe someone was feeling a bit frustrated by the endless roadworks?):


I was quite glad to have the excuse to sit under a tree and just listen to speeches and music for a large chunk of today, because last night was my Toastmasters club’s speech competition, and somehow (for “somehow”, read “because I’m useless at saying no to people”) I got roped into being the contest chair.  Which was kind of stressful, because apparently our last competition (which I’d missed) was a complete shambles, so there was a lot of pressure to get everything right this time (especially as we had guests from other clubs present!).  Luckily, there’s a script to follow for a lot of the chairing (because things like how you introduce the contestants and explain the rules are all tightly regulated), but there was still a shaky moment when I almost forgot to allow the judges time between contestants to fill out their score cards (ok, I actually did forget, but luckily someone sitting in the front row realised what I was about to do, and managed to signal me in time).

Anyway, it all went pretty well in the end, but it was a long night, and I was feeling exhausted when I got home.  So it was nice to have a relatively quiet day today!


I’ve made a bit of progress on the flower garden quilt. It’s slow going though, having to stop so often to shift the heavy quilt around. It’s made me realise I need a more ergonomic setup for my sewing machine, because after a few hours of working on it at the weekend I was hurting in all sorts of places. I might have to look at getting a proper sewing table that’s at the right height, instead of just using the desk.

I haven’t taken a proper photo of progress so far, because that would involve moving furniture again so I could spread it out properly, but here’s a sneak peak of the folded-up version. I’ve pretty much just got the border area to quilt (you normally start in the centre and work gradually outwards when you’re quilting), which doesn’t seem much, but is actually a lot of surface area.

I’m getting impatient to get it finished, because I there’s so many other projects I want to start.  Not that having one project on the go has ever prevented me from starting another, but I’ve got the sewing machine set up to do free-motion quilting at the moment, so I don’t want to have to keep switching it back and forth between that and normal sewing (hmm, the solution here is obviously to have multiple sewing machines, each set up for a different function ;-))

In the meantime, as an outlet for my “I want to start something new!” frustration, I made another dishcloth, so that I’ll have a spare for when the first one needs washing.  I didn’t have enough of the multi-coloured wool to make a whole cloth, and I haven’t figured out yet how to change wools when crocheting, so I decided to knit it rather than crochet this time.

Knitting is definitely one of those skills that falls under the category of “technically I know how to do it, but I’m pretty rubbish at it in reality”, so it’s a bit all over the place in terms of tension (and definitely in terms of casting on, which I kind of forgot how to do so just made it up as I went along), but again, it’s a dishcloth. It’s going in the sink, so perfection is definitely not required.  So despite its many flaws, I’m counting it as a success :-)

Rain!

The good news is, it started raining yesterday (I’ve never heard so many people saying “Yay, it’s raining!” instead of “Ugh, it’s raining”). The bad news is, it’s the wrong sort of rain. It’s just been a light drizzle – not enough to put the fires out, but enough to hamper visibility so that the helicopters can’t fly. We really can’t get a break here in Christchurch, can we?  And now it’s looking like the fire service senior management might have made some critical mistakes early on, similar to the mistakes they made during the CTV building collapse in the 22 February 2011 earthquake, which means the lessons that should have been learnt were ignored.  I think there’s going to be some very tough questions asked after they finally get the fires out.

Two Happy Things


  1. I had to go into town for a meeting on Thursday (it still amazes me that I have the sort of job now where I get to have meetings – and not the sort where I’m only there to take minutes!), and on the way back to work I passed a sign for Scorpios‘ newly reopened shop.  I didn’t have time for more than a quick look around, but it was so exciting to see them back in a proper shop (while the cramped container in ReStart and the Riccarton satellite branch are great, they’re just not the same).  Brought back so many memories of the days (pre-Amazon) when I used to come over from Westport for the weekend and stock up on as many books as my budget would allow, just so I could survive a little bit longer in the cultural wasteland.  Of course I had to buy something, and Margaret Atwood’s new book (well, newish – it actually came out last year, but this is why I need Scorpios, so I notice things like new Atwood novels when they actually happen!) leapt off the shelf at me.  I was smiling all the way back to work – there’s something just so comforting about a new book in a Scorpios bag :-)

  2. It’s April, which means I’m going to Athens this month!!!  In just over two weeks, in fact!  I went down to the bank in my lunch-hour yesterday and got some Euros, which is the last major bit of preparation I needed to do (other than the last-minute stuff like packing).  There’s something about getting foreign currency that makes a trip seem so much more real (especially in these days of e-ticketing – a printed-off email never seems as real as a proper ticket).  Lytteltonwitch and I have been talking about this trip for so long (two years in fact, since Athens’s bid for the 2016 convention was announced) that it’s felt like a far-off thing even while I’ve been buying tickets and booking accommodation.  But now it’s suddenly very immediate and real.  There may have been a small degree of happy dance occurring while I took the above photo…

Just when you thought it was all over

In theory, I should be at the university writing my research proposal.  Up until an hour or so ago, that’s where I was.  Except then the ground started shaking (again), in a big and scary enough way that taking shelter under my desk seemed like a good idea (ok, and there may have been a tiny bit of whimpering – I was alone in the building, after all!).  I did consider getting back to work after the shaking stopped, but then I checked geonet and discovered that it had been a 5.7, which is big enough that they’d probably evacuate the campus until the buildings have been checked, plus the idea of spending the afternoon alone in a six-storey building was feeling a lot less attractive than it had been, and my adrenaline levels were so high that concentrating on work probably wasn’t all that viable anyway.  So I packed up my books and left the building (it may be a sign that we’re all way too practised with earthquakes in this city that I first emailed myself the documents I was working on, just in case I don’t have access to my office for a while…)

I discovered on the stairwell that I wasn’t quite as alone in the building as I’d thought – I met one of the postgrads from downstairs similarly self-evacuating.  We shared a few reassuring words and went on our way.  As I was passing the library, I could hear the announcements that the library was closing, so I was correct in my assessment that the campus would be evacuated (and in fact, I just checked the university’s website, and yep, a big notice on the front page that campus is closed).  There was no obvious damage to the campus though, so hopefully it’ll only be closed for the afternoon while they do the building checks, and all will be back to normal tomorrow – I’ve got too much work I need to do!

I thought about taking a bus home, just to have some company on the way, but decided to walk – a bit of exercise to drain off some of the adrenaline.  It’s mostly worked, in that I’m feeling a lot calmer, but I don’t know that I’ll be getting much more study done this afternoon, despite bringing a few books home with me.  This is when living alone doesn’t seem like such a fun idea… (especially if we get any aftershocks – according to geonet we’ve had quite a few 3 point somethings already this afternoon, but they were all while I was walking home, so I didn’t feel any of them).  And of course, with Christchurch’s recent history, there’s always the thought in the back of your mind of what if there’s another really big one?  The rational part of my brain remembers that the geologists did say anything up to a 6 would be a normal part of the aftershock sequence even this far out from the original quakes, but the less rational parts are having none of it.  Think I might put a DVD on and devote the afternoon to sewing and watching something mindless to take my mind off things.

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!

Party party party

Down to the last few days of work before the Christmas break, and I’m seriously feeling in need of a holiday. What with boss still being away on parental leave, and several big deadlines falling in December, work hasn’t had the usual end-of-year wind-down this year – we’ve just been in full-on busy mode trying to get everything done. Oh well, only three more days until the university shuts down for Christmas, and then I get a couple of weeks off.

And at least there’s been plenty of distraction in the form of many many Christmas parties (one of the perils of working in a large organisation, especially when you’re connected with multiple departments), including two I hosted myself this weekend. First was the CEISMIC team party on Friday night (which grew a bit larger than expected, because we decided to invite a few students and volunteers who are working in our office over the summer – it was a bit of a squeeze fitting everyone into my little lounge, but luckily students are happy to sit on the floor :-)), then on Saturday night what was technically the Bookcrossing Christmas Party, although in reality it has evolved over the years into mostly just I invite a few friends round, whether bookcrossers or not (though I still also open the invitation up to bookcrossing meetup regulars).

Both parties went very well, despite nearly running out of cutlery on Friday night (note for next year: actually count up how many people have been invited before agreeing when someone says, “We really should invite X too”), and failing to provide vegetarian food for the Harvestbirds on Saturday (dinner was pot luck, and in a bid not to over-cater as I usually end up doing, I decided I’d only make nibbles and a dessert, and trust to luck for the mains – which worked to the extent that we ended up with the right *amount* of food, it was just that it was all meat-based. Oops – probably should have been a bit more organised and actually told people what to bring. Of course, they were very gracious about it though, and just filled up on the bread and dips).

Definitely the least stressful party organising I’ve done in ages – I’ve been so busy I didn’t have time to go over the top in preparation, so it was just a matter of making sure the house was clean and doing the minimum possible food preparation (ok, so I did make bread both days, but that’s easy – most of it is just sitting around waiting for the yeast to do its magic), then deciding that anything that wasn’t done obviously wasn’t important :-) Having the two parties back to back like that helped too, because most of the preparation I’d done for the first party carried over to the next night – all I needed to do was a quick vacuuming of crumbs from the lounge and whip up another batch of bread, and I was ready to go. I even managed to recycle some of the leftover food :-)

Which meant that I had time on Saturday to go to the Art Gallery opening! The Christchurch Art Gallery has been closed since February 2011 – at first because they were using it as the Civil Defence headquarters while they were still doing search and rescue after the earthquakes, and then because they discovered damage to the building that needed to be brought back up to code before any other galleries or museums would lend them any exhibitions. So it’s been a long time since we’ve had an art gallery, but they finally re-opened to the public on Saturday morning. Harvestbird and I managed to get there in time to be in the queue to be first through the doors, and it was a very exciting moment. There were no speeches or anything, just lots of happy staff with huge smiles to finally be able to welcome visitors back into their gallery, and lots of happy people pleased to be back.

Like so many things in post-earthquake Christchurch, it’s hard to describe just how amazing it felt to go back into the Art Gallery after all this time. It’s like another little piece of normality being restored to our still-broken city, and oh so exciting. From the looks on the faces around us, everyone was feeling the same way. So many smiling faces (and the odd tear), so many people rushing up to an old favourite exclaiming, “Oh, I remember this one!” We spent so long just drinking in the first couple of rooms that we weren’t able to get around the whole gallery (the guides giving tours were having the same problem – we joined a tour, and about half way round the guide suddenly realised she’d been so enthusiastically telling us everything about everything that she was way behind schedule, so had to race us round the rest of the tour). I had to keep telling myself that this wasn’t my only chance to see the gallery, that I would be able to go back many times and see the rest – they’re not going to suddenly close it down again! I think we’re a little *too* used to impermanence in this city now…

After all that socialising, I had a nice quiet day yesterday, and managed to finish binding all my Christmas quilt projects:

I feel quite productive looking at the finished pile!

A piece of history

Went to the Whole House Reuse auction last night with two of the CEISMIC team. It was a bit of a last minute thing – we’d talked about going to the auction way back when the project first started and we were archiving the catalogue of parts, but only realised yesterday morning that the auction was actually last night.  So it was a bit of a rush to get tickets etc, but we made it.

There were so many beautiful pieces in the auction!  Everything from large pieces of furniture down to delicate jewellery, all created from materials salvaged from the demolition, and all unique works of art.  Because there were so many pieces, they split the auction between a live auction and a silent auction.  Some of the major pieces in the main auction ended up going for thousands (and were probably worth it, but definitely way outside my budget!), and even some of the smaller pieces ended up in the hundreds (the auctioneers were very skilled, plus the charity aspect got people bidding a lot higher than they normally would), but the silent auction stayed more in my price range, so I stuck to that.

There was one thing I’d had my eye on since I’d seen them in the museum exhibition – Emma Byrne’s End Stacks (it’s lot 41, about half way down the page) – a set of stools/end tables made out of stacked wood. I was really hoping they’d sell them individually (I doubted I could either afford or find space in my house for the entire set!), and almost got my wish, because they had four lots of two stools each in the silent auction. I decided as long as the bidding didn’t get too high I could find a home for two stools, so I picked a lot at random to put a bid on, and spent the rest of the evening checking back as the bids crept up, and trying to keep my bid on top of one of the four lists. As the deadline for the auction got closer, there were four of us hovering around the stools, outbidding each other by a dollar or two at a time. Which would have been fine, except that one guy was obviously wanting four stools, because he kept bidding on two lots at a time. The bids were getting very close to the limit I’d set myself, so I was resigning myself to the fact I’d probably go home empty-handed, when the woman who’d just outbid me turned to me and said “Did you want both stools, or just one?” We quickly established we’d both be happy with just one stool, so decided to team up and split the cost. Which meant that suddenly demand exactly matched supply, all four people were going to get what we wanted, so the bidding stopped (though we all remained hovering, just in case any sneaky last-minute outsiders came in with a new bid (I offered to “accidentally” sit down on the bidding sheet (which was sitting on top of one of the stools) so nobody else could bid :-) )). But at last the auctioneer’s assistant came round to collect up the sheets, and we could all celebrate our collective win.

So I got my stool, the one thing in the exhibition I really wanted, and because we’d split the price I only had to spend $121 to get it, so stayed well within my theoretical budget for the evening.  Serious win!

Ok, so $121 might seem a wee bit expensive for a stool, but it’s almost solid rimu (and you can tell when you lift it – it weighs a tonne! Carrying it back to Lucy-Jane’s car was a bit of an effort), and as a unique(ish – the other stools in the set are similar, but each was slightly different depending on the pieces of wood used) artwork, and a really cool part of Christchurch history, I reckon it’s well worth it.  I’m very happy with my purchase :-)