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.

Films and Flight

I decided it was about time I got round to finishing off the Birds in Flight quilt (which I feel like I started about a million years ago), so I spent the weekend working on the connecting bits for the strip of birds to go on the back. I didn’t get it finished, but I made pretty good progress. At this rate I might even get it quilted this year…


The Film Festival is on at the moment, and for once I’m not immersed in studying, so I’ve actually got the chance to get to some of the films this year. To make sure I didn’t let it slip by, I bought myself a 5-film pass, so now I’ll have to go to at least 5 films or it was a waste of money :-) I managed to get to two this weekend – on Saturday night I went to an Irish film, A Date for Mad Mary, about a woman, recently released from prison, preparing for her best friend’s wedding, and last night I went to Kiki, el amor se hace, a brilliantly funny Spanish film about kink.  They were both really good (especially considering I picked them as much for the fact that they were on at convenient times/days (each film is only shown a couple of times during the festival, so it can take a bit of planning if there’s particular films you want to see – I know some people who take time off work for the festival each year so they can get to the films shown during the day) as for their reviews), and funny and uplifting, in completely different ways, so a great start to my festival film-going.

No spoilers!

So. The new Star Wars movie came out last week.  The film I’ve been waiting for forever (I’d almost say since 1983, except back then I was waiting for Episode I.  And yeah, we all know what happened there.)  And I didn’t go and see it.  Not because I was scared it wouldn’t be good (though there was a bit of that), but because Mum had told me she’d bought tickets for me and brother and family to go and see it together after Christmas, so I wasn’t to go and see it myself.

Sorry Mum, I tried, but too many people have seen it now, so the spoiler risk was getting way too high for comfort.  So tonight I defied parental instruction and went to the movies.  And it was good.  A bit of fan service, but not so much as to be annoying, the surprises were big and reasonably surprising (I guessed one of them was coming about 10 minutes before it happened, but I didn’t think I could be right, so in a way it was still a surprise – SO glad I managed to avoid the spoilers on that one though!!!), and the overall feel was… not exactly right, but right enough.  It feels disloyal to George Lucas to say so (and I was one of those die-hard fans who really really tried to see the good in Episodes I-III), but I think handing it over to Disney was the best move he could have made.  This may not be the movie he would have made, but it’s definitely a Star Wars movie.

There’s not much more I can say without spoiling it (though there’s so much more I WANT to say!!! That scene!  Where the thing happens!  And then that other thing!  And that guy who does the thing! And that place! And, and, and!), but I know I definitely want to see it again – and then go back to being a 14-year-old again and spend the rest of the night dissecting every detail with my little brother :-)

(P.S. Today’s Ctrl-Alt-Del comic sums it up pretty well)

(P.P.S. It is stinking hot. It got to 35 degrees today, and even now, after 10 pm, it’s still 23. To think only a few days ago it was hailing!)

Return to the Academy

Yesterday afternoon Lytteltonwitch and I went to see Still Alice, a film about a woman in her 50s who develops early-onset Alzheimers.  With a premise like that, it’s not exactly a spoiler to say that you know right from the start the film isn’t going to have a happy ending.  And yep, there was a lot of sniffling and eye-wiping going on around the theatre when the lights went up.  I can’t exactly say I enjoyed the movie (much too sad (and scary!) for that), but it was really well done (well, apart possibly from a few niggles I had about the linguistics stuff – there is no way a second-year class wouldn’t have heard of phonology before, for a start!)

We saw it in the Academy Theatre, which has re-opened in Spotlight mall (or the Colombo, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).  I hadn’t realised they’d moved over there, and I was really impressed with the theatre – despite being in a pretty uninspiring mall, they’ve managed to retain a lot of the atmosphere they had in their old Arts Centre space.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for what they’ve got showing, because the old Academy always had really interesting films.

Films and playgrounds and shiny cats

It’s been a busy weekend.  Yesterday afternoon I went to another film festival film, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.  A lovely animation from Studio Ghibli, based on a Japanese fairy tale.  As with everything Studio Ghibli, a visually wonderful film, plus it’s always so interesting to see fairy tales from other cultures – they never follow the structures that seem so right and natural to our Western-encultured eyes, and the embedded moral lessons are very different than you’d find in a European fairy tale.  A good reminder that what seems “normal” is very much a subjective thing.

Harvestbird and I had planned on going to another film in the evening, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, Michel Gondry’s documentary/conversation with Noam Chomsky.  The timing wasn’t going to work out for her though (because: children), so my revised plan was just to go on my own (how could I miss a film on Chomsky after I spent half of last semester debating the validity of generative linguistics?), but then I got a message from her on Friday saying that the film had just shown up on their <*cough* not Netflix because we can’t get Netflix in NZ and of course nobody would ever use a proxy to pretend to be in America and acquire illicit access that way *cough*> queue, so would I like to watch it with them at their place instead.

So a new and improved plan was born, and we spent a very enjoyable evening eating way too much junk food and watching the film, with the bonus that we could pause it for critical comment whenever the whole “Chomsky as Elder Statesman of Linguistics who must be listened to with awe even when he’s making pronouncements on things way outside his field” thing got too much for us.  Followed of course by long and in-depth (and only slightly whisky-fuelled) discussion on the film’s merits and philosophies.  It was a very late night!

Then this afternoon, Harvestbird, the elder mini-Harvestbird, and I went out to Tai Tapu to explore a promising crafty-type shop (which didn’t quite deliver as much as it promised, so I didn’t buy anything), followed by cake at the cafe and some playground time (during which I may have spent more time clambering around on the climbing frame than the mini-Harvestbird did… but only so I could help her build confidence, honestly! 😉 ).  A lovely afternoon – Mini-Harvestbird is always so excited to come on these “only for big girls” outings without her little sister, and Harvestbird and I got to continue our long philosophical discussion from last night.

Somewhere in there I even managed to squeeze in a little time to work on the next stage of my second butterfly.  A wee teaser:

And to add even further to the pretty:

I spotted him in a shop window as I was leaving the picture theatre yesterday, and couldn’t resist.  I’m not sure exactly where he’s going to live yet, so I’ve been auditioning him in various spots around the house.

Music from the past

The International Film Festival is on at the moment, so I went last night to see one of the films on offer, Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets, a documentary about Pulp’s last concert, in their home town of Sheffield.

As well as being a great documentary (made by a NZ film-maker – it was weird hearing a Kiwi accent in the midst of all those Northerners), the music brought back a lot of memories of a fun time in my life.  I arrived in the UK pretty much at the height of Brit Pop, so my memories of that time have a definite soundtrack of bands like Pulp, Blur and Oasis running through them, but especially Pulp, because they were one of the very few bands on which my and H’s musical tastes overlapped.  We even went to see them in concert, at a music festival in Finsbury Park (25 July 1998 – I only know the date because I’ve still got the sketchbook I was using to sketch pictures of people in the crowd, to entertain myself while the lesser acts were on earlier in the day, and I’d written the date at the top of the page).

It’s nice to have those memories brought back, to remind me that the years I spent with H weren’t all wasted – we had a lot of adventures and fun times together.  It was only in the final few years where the bad stuff started outweighing the good.

But SO MANY ear worms!!!


I decided to have another go at Tartankiwi’s Butterfly Challenge.  The rules of the challenge allow two entries per person, and I’ve had a few ideas floating around in my head for something very different than the Catterfly (thanks Sherlockfan for the perfect name!).  So yesterday afternoon I had fun selecting fabrics and attempting to narrow down my ideas into just one.

I had to reject so many wonderful possibilities (though I may yet resurrect them – I can still make butterflies, even if they’re not for the challenge):

Decision made?

The Beast all set up and ready to go (I’ll probably set it up permanently in the study, but it’s too cold to work in there at the moment, so it has a temporary home in the warmth of the lounge):

Finding the nicest parts of the fabric to use for the wings:

Starting the paper-piecing:

For this one, I’ve simplified the original pattern quite a bit for the actual patchwork bit, but don’t worry, I have plans to complicate it again in the next stage. Watch this space :-)

The Tartankiwi

At last

The last couple of weeks have been very long ones, full of drama and a total emotional roller-coaster.  But perseverance paid off, and on Wednesday, 6 months and 2 days after H left, he signed the separation agreement, and I am finally completely legally and financially free of him.

It’s cost me a lot, both in stress and financially (ironically, property law that was originally set up to protect women worked against me, because despite the fact that I’ve been pretty much the sole income earner for the last decade (in his best year his business earnt less than 5% of my salary), he was still entitled to half of everything.  I can tell you, it irked enormously to have to take out a huge mortgage to re-purchase the house that I’d already worked hard to pay for! And don’t get me started on the whole “no fault” thing! (apologies to those of you who have already heard me rant at great length and multiple times about the evils of the Matrimonial Property Act over the last few months – promise I’ll shut up now)), not helped by his conviction that I was out to cheat him so disputing every tiny detail all the way through the process, adding ever more to the delays and lawyers’ bills.

But in a way, I’m actually glad it got so nasty.  It means that when it was finally all over and the papers were signed, all I felt was joy at having removed such toxicity from my life.  There can be no regrets for the loss of a relationship when you’ve spent half a year seeing only the worst of someone.  So now I can truly get on with my life.  I intend to enjoy every minute of it!


It wasn’t all drama over the last couple of weeks though – I managed to do some fun stuff as well.  It’s Film Festival time, and I’ve managed to get along to a few interesting films.  First, last Friday, was Omar, a Palestinian film which I really enjoyed (although perhaps “enjoyed” is not quite the word for such fraught subject matter).  Harvestbird, who I saw it with, has written a much more coherent review than I could ever manage, so I’ll leave you to read hers rather than attempt my own.

Then last weekend I went and saw a selection of NZ short films.  As is usual, some were fantastic, some just mediocre, and some outright weird.  At least one had me on the verge of tears, and a couple made me smile uncontrollably.  The one that really stuck in my mind was “I’m Going to Mum’s”, the story of a marriage break-up told via the clothing worn by a small boy being shuttled back and forth between his parents (yeah, sounds weird, but in the film it makes total sense).  That one definitely made me smile, it was so beautifully done, and nearly made me cry too.  Actually, I’ve just realised there was a bit of a clothing theme to my favourites – another that made me smile was “Friday Tigers/Ngā Taika o te Rāmere”, which featured a mother and her child dressing up in costumes (with a different theme for each day – hence Friday Tigers) for the train ride to her kohanga reo (kindergarten).

And on Friday Harvestbird and I went to see Computer Chess, a very strange semi-mockumentary about the early chess-playing computers of the late 70s/early 80s, and the people who built them.  I thought it was just the couple of glasses of wine I’d had beforehand at Friday night drinks at work that confused me about a few aspects of the story, but talking to Harvestbird yesterday, she was just as confused.  After much discussion we still couldn’t decide what exactly was going on at a couple of points, but were agreed it was definitely weird.


Mum was up for a few days this week, so I booked us in to a class at the Make Cafe.  The aim of the class was to make a pot-holder, but really it was to teach the basic techniques for finishing off a quilt (which is really just a really big potholder, from a sewing point of view ;-)).  I was quite pleased with my finished product:

Here’s the back:

My hand-sewing isn’t the best (so much for “blind” stitch!), but it never is.  It’s lovely and colourful and brightens up my kitchen though, and I learnt a huge amount from the class.


Yesterday Harvestbird and I (accompanied by one of the junior Harvestbirds) hit the shops for a long-planned expedition to replace some of the furniture I had to give up in the settlement (now that my frozen bank accounts are finally unfrozen and I can at last access the inheritance money from my stepfather, which my lawyer thankfully managed to protect for me).  We didn’t manage to find everything I wanted, but we found a few really good pieces at very reasonable prices (and drooled over a few totally impractical but oh-so-tempting pieces), so I’ll soon have the house looking good again.  I’m not getting them delivered until next weekend, but I promise photos once I do.


For the bookcrossers (and non-bookcrossers too if you’re interested, but you have to promise to write a journal entry) who haven’t yet read This is How You Die, the Machine of Death anthology featuring a story by ‘Nathan, I’m planning on offering it up as a bookring.  If you’re interested, let me know.

Pallets and pop-up tearooms

The “Pallet Pavillion” on the site of the old Park Royal was opened today.  It’s another Gap Filler project, a venue for music or community events, or pretty much anything really.  It’s an amazing space, made almost entirely out of old packing pallets, complete with tables and chairs (made out of vege bins) and a pallet stage. It’s open-air, but the walls are high, and curve in interesting ways, so it kind of feels like being inside – quite a cosy space, really.

Pallet Pavillion

Pallet Pavillion

Pallet Pavillion

The main reason I was there, though, was because it was my friend Jan’s first outing in her new guise of a pop-up tearoom (she’s the blonde one on the right).

Popup Tearoom

I didn’t stay very long (just long enough to be Jan’s first paying customer, and to wish her well in her new venture) because I needed to get home by 1 pm, but first I wanted to have a wee walk through the CBD on my way to the bus exchange, because they’ve opened a few more areas up since I was last in town. I took hundreds of photos, of course, but I won’t bore you with them all, just a few points of interest.

Victoria Square is open now, and looks almost back to normal – if you ignore the cordon fencing in the background, that is:23 12 12 CBD

The view across the river to the Town Hall isn’t so pretty:23 12 12 CBD

For those of you who were at the Christchurch convention, you might remember our hangers-on dinner at the Oxford on Avon (that weird buffet place that turned off the lights before we’d finished eating). A parking place for demolition equipment is all that remains:23 12 12 CBD

Decorations from two Christmases ago on Colombo Street (plus a truck for carting demolition rubble):.

There’s so many buildings gone now you keep coming across unexpected views. This one is from the Gloucester Street bridge, from where you can now see the Cathedral:.

Talking of the Cathedral, they’ve opened up a walkway into the Square again, so I got to see it from a different angle:.

One for Lytteltonwitch – they’ve started demolishing the ANZ building:.

Kate Shepherd is still behind bars:23 12 12 CBD

but Punting on the Avon is back in business:23 12 12 CBD

Christmas decorations in the container mall:23 12 12 CBD

There was also a market on there, and this guy was doing a roaring trade in bagels and breadsticks:
23 12 12 CBD

I made it home in time to meet Jenny and Christian, who we’d arranged to go and see The Hobbit with.  I wasn’t all that sure about seeing it, after reading so many reviews, but it wasn’t as bad as I was dreading.  The first half drags on a bit, and the whole 3D 48 fps thing was horrible (3D gives me a headache anyway, and the 48 fps made everything way too real for a fantasy movie – very jarring.  Plus it made the fight scenes look totally chaotic – I had no idea what was going on for most of them.), but once the story got going it was quite fun.  Of course, it might help that it’s been quite a few years since I last read the book, so the departures from it weren’t as obvious as they could have been.

The good, the bad, and the… also good

One of the nicer side-effects of the earthquakes is that because we lost almost all of the city’s arthouse cinemas, the mainstream cinemas have started showing a broader range of films to cater to some of that market.  As a result, the local Hoyts is celebrating Diwali with a selection of Bollywood films, one of which we went to see last night: Son of Sardaar.  A totally mad mix of action movie, slapstick comedy and musical that could only be produced in Bollywood, it was great fun – we both giggled our way through it (even if we were often laughing at different times to the rest of the (mostly Indian) audience).  Of course, now I’ve got the theme tune stuck in my head…


On the less pleasant side of the earthquake balance is the fact that it’s our suburb’s turn to have its sewers checked for earthquake damage (the council are slowly working their way round the entire city – a four-year job, apparently).  We got a letter the other day warning us that they’d be working at night (because apparently not disrupting traffic is more important than not disrupting our sleep) and that there might be some disturbance from noise and lights.  What they didn’t warn us about though was the smell – they must have been forcing air or water through the pipes to test them or something, because there was much bubbling and blowback from the toilet (luckily it seemed to only be water splashing out, but we put the lid down anyway), and a wonderful reek of sewer gasses through the house.  Plus I reckon they must have had the truck parked right outside our house, and it was just noisy enough that whenever I’d start to drift off I’d be woken up again.

So not a pleasant awakening this morning, to not enough sleep and a lingering horrible smell.  Luckily it’s a nice day today, so MrPloppy will be able to open all the windows and air it out a bit, so hopefully by the time I get home tonight the smell will be gone.

I really hope though that that’s our bit of pipe done and they’ll move further along the street tonight, because the notice said they’ll be working on the pipes until the 30th, and I really couldn’t cope with that every night!


In other good news, I got my marks back from my assignment, and I got an A+!  It’s only a provisional grade at the moment, because postgrad work has to be checkmarked by an external assessor, but I’m still grinning like a mad thing.

Now all I have to do is keep that up for the next three years, and I’ll have a high enough GPA to get a chance of a scholarship…


And talking of good things, I got a parcel yesterday from Lytteltonwitch.  She definitely knows me well:

.

And the perfect size for carting books, too.  Thanks, LW!


And even more good news, the electrician has almost (after many stop start visits when he had to drop our work to go and attend to earthquake rebuilds (which we’d said we were ok with him giving priority to – people who’ve been living in broken houses for two years definitely have a greater need than us!)) finished our re-wiring.  Thanks to Stepfather’s generosity in his will, we’ve not only got a much safer house, we’ve now got power points everywhere we need them (instead of trying to run everything off one power point per room plus a spaghetti of extension cords and multi-boards), and better lights, and can even do exciting things like run the washing machine and the dryer at the same time without blowing all the fuses (trust me, that’s exciting when you’ve been living with 1950s wiring for 10 years!).  He’s just got to finish disconnecting the old underfloor heating system (which we’ve never used, because it cost a fortune to run and generated more smell than heat anyway) and installing a nightstore heater in the hallway, and we’ll be done.

Next project: carpet.


In Bookcrossing news, only a few days until the Australian UnCon.  Which means I’ll be getting up ridiculously early on Friday morning (my flight’s at 6.30 am, so that means check-in at 4.30, which means…. arrgh, I don’t want to think about what that means about when I have to set the alarm for!) to fly to Sydney and then catch a train to Canberra.  Canberra’s not supposed to be a particularly exciting city to visit, but when it’s full of bookcrossers it’s sure to be a fantastically fun weekend.

And a few recent (and not so recent – I must remember to post more often) catches:

Mr. Corbett’s Ghost  by Leon Garfield was an early Halloween release (ok, so I meant to release it on Halloween but got the date wrong) that must have been caught almost immediately, because I released it in Deans Bush about an hour before they close the gates for the night, and it was caught that same night.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett is a second-generation catch on a book I released in Washington DC.  After being caught and taken to Seattle, it languished in a lost and found box for months before being rescued and enjoyed.

The Tower on the Rift by Ian Irvine – a catch from Ireland, from our visit to Clonmacnoise.

Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann and Consequences by Anna Dillon – more Ireland catches, this time from the hostel in Cashel.

Working Wonders by Jenny Colgan – and another one from the hostel in Killarney.

Beside Myself by Russell Haley – nearly two years between release and catch, a couple of blocks apart from each other.

Man and Boy by Tony Parsons – caught and re-released.

Demon Rumm by Sandra Brown – and a quick catch for a themed release.