Small people and musicals

I’ve been using a couple of random bits of fabric and batting as a practice quilt sandwich, for checking tension and trying out new quilting patterns before I actually start quilting something. I’d completely filled up the piece with stitching, so I was about to throw it out and replace it with some new scraps, but then I realised that it was exactly the right size to make a quilt for a doll, so I quickly put some binding on it, and presented it to the smaller mini-Harvestbird today as a consolation prize for not being able to come to a show with me and her big sister:

It’s very random – different patterns and thread colours, and lots of squiggly bits where I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the machine speed before I got it repaired) with absolutely no plan to it (not surprising, considering it was never supposed to be anything), but hopefully mini-Harvestbird’s dolls won’t be fussy :-)


The reason I was taking the elder mini-Harvestbird to the theatre was that I got a text last night from Ade saying she’d double-booked herself, so had two tickets she couldn’t use for this afternoon’s performance of Beauty and the Beast at the local high school (not quite as horrific as it sounds, because Burnside High is known for its performing arts department, so their productions are usually pretty good), and would I like them. I said yes, and (reasoning that small children would be more interested in Beauty and the Beast than most adults I know) messaged Harvestbird to ask whether (assuming such a thing could be done without causing sibling disputes) she’d like me to take one of the girls. Luckily (?) the smaller mini-Harvestbird was sick, so the decision (and explanation to smaller mini-Harvestbird as to why she was missing out!) was pretty easy, so elder mini-Harvestbird and I spent the afternoon at the theatre.

It was actually a lot of fun – the show itself was pretty good for a high school production, even though Disney musicals aren’t exactly my thing (actually, I’ve never even seen the original movie of Beauty and the Beast (although of course I recognised about half of the songs just through how embedded in the culture they are)). What was the most fun though was seeing it through the eyes of a 6 year old. She was so excited by it all, hiding behind her hands when the Beast came out, and bouncing along in her seat to the songs, and turning to me at key plot points to whisper that I shouldn’t worry, because she knew it would have a happy ending. It was fun too seeing her learning the social conventions of theatre-going (which you forget have to be learnt), like when to clap, and she was very confused by the overture – when we were waiting before the lights went down she was exploding with impatience, and kept asking me when it would start, so I explained that everyone had to finish sitting down first, and then the doors would close, and then the lights go down and everyone would get quiet, and then it would start. When the music started and the curtains stayed closed, she turned to me and asked “why haven’t they started?” like she was being cheated – it hadn’t even occurred to me that to a child, an orchestra playing to a closed curtain wouldn’t seem much like anything had started!

Anyway, I think the show was a success. While we were waiting outside theatre afterwards for Harvestbird to come and pick us up, she chattered away to me about her favourite bits, and how she would have made the transformation of the Beast into the Prince so much better (flashing lights and smoke effects while the actor ducks down behind the scenery and removes his mask doesn’t quite measure up to the morphing that can be done in a cartoon, apparently :-) ), and how much she was looking forward to getting home and telling everyone all about it.


It’s been a pretty social week all round, actually. On Thursday night I hosted the craft meetup (it normally rotates round a few different people’s places, interspersed with meeting in bars, so I put up my hand last time the organiser was planning the venues for the next few weeks). I think 8 people turned up – if there’d been any more it might have been a struggle to squeeze them all into the lounge, so that was a nice number. The evening went really well, and I even managed to get a bit of sewing done (putting the binding on the doll’s quilt, actually) in between making people cups of tea and passing around cake. Plus it was nice not to have to venture out into the horrible weather myself, so I think I’ll offer to be put into the regular rotation of venues.

Talking of craft meetups, I forgot to post a picture of the insects embroidery I’d been working on at the meetups, which I finally finished last week:

As always seems to be the case with me and embroidery projects, I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do with it now that it’s finished. Maybe I should do another giveaway – if you want it, let me know!


This month is Diversity Fest at the university, with all sorts of talks and other events themed around various forms of diversity. Last night I went to a screening of Intersexion, a documentary about intersex people, followed by a panel discussion. The film was really interesting – though horrifying to hear the experiences of people who whose genitals were mutilated in childhood without their consent, all in the name of making them “normal”, and the effects that has had on them in adulthood. And even worse to learn that this is still happening to many intersex babies born today :-( The discussion afterwards was great too – the panel was made up of an intersex person, a non-binary person from Qtopia (the student/youth LGBTI+ group that was hosting the event), and a gender studies/cultural studies lecturer, plus there were some really insightful questions and comments from the audience.


And finally, a video. Ages ago (the day I submitted my thesis, actually), I, along with several other students, was asked by the Head of the Linguistics Department if I’d be a talking head for a promotional campaign they’re doing for the department. So of course I said yes, and was interviewed, and then completely forgot about it, until this week when the videos went onto YouTube, and I get to see how badly I stumbled through describing my research (actually, they’ve done a good job of editing it together in a way that almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about!)

Ok, let’s see if I can get this embed code to work…

Quilting and singing and games

I started the quilting!

I did get quite a bit further than that today, but by the time I thought to take another photo the light was no good.  So you’ll just have to wait :-)  I managed to get just over a quarter of it done, though, so I’m making good progress.  And the quilting is working out exactly as I envisioned it, so it should look pretty good when it’s finished.


I went to see the NZ Opera production of Carmen last night with Lytteltonwitch.  It’s actually the first “proper” opera I’ve ever seen, and it was really good.  I was very glad of the surtitles though, as otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on (Lytteltonwitch summed up the plot for me as roughly “Boy meets girl, someone dies at the end, and in between there’s a lot of singing”).  It took me about half an hour to figure out what language they were singing in, let alone be able to make out any of the words… yeah, I probably should have bought a programme or something :-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and was surprised at how many of the tunes I recognised – a lot of them are ones that are just in the popular consciousness, without you necessarily knowing where they come from.  The staging was really good too – they did some really clever stuff with lighting, like casting shadows of the actors onto the walls during the bar scene, which gave quite a threatening feel to it.  The bar scene also cleverly put the women in a position of power, so that it switched gradually from a group of drunken men demanding that the women (not sure if they were supposed to represent prostitutes?) dance for them, to the women totally controlling the men and making them perform – the confusion at the end of the scene when the men suddenly realising the roles had been reversed was quite lovely.

And of course, as you’d expect, some really powerful singing, especially from the performer playing Carmen.


On Friday night I went round to Dana’s after work (this is becoming a regular thing).  There was quite a large group there, so rather than play video games (as is usual on Friday nights – they have a Nintendo Switch connected to a projector, so the screen is pretty much the entire wall), we played a few board games.  One was totally new to me (and I can’t remember the name of it now), but the others I’d played before with the Gwilks – Dixit and Codenames.  A lot of fun, even if I did feel a bit old at times (most of the people there were in their mid twenties).  And I was on the winning team for two of the games, which is always good :-)

Off with their hair

Those of you who know me in real life (TM) will know that for the past year or two I’ve been muttering about how one day I’m going to suddenly cut off all my hair.  Well, one day arrived…

Yeah, bit of a drastic change :-) (Although in photos it doesn’t really look all that different, because I always tied my hair back anyway, so you couldn’t really tell in photos just how long it was).  It’s still not exactly the way I want it – I’m going to go back in a few weeks to get the top cut even shorter, but the hairdresser wanted me to leave it at this stage for a few weeks while the follicles relax back into shape – having had it long for so long (and almost always tied back in the same way) has stretched them into weird directions, so I still have a very noticeable part down the centre of my head at the moment, which would be emphasised even more if the hair was even shorter – hopefully it will disappear as the follicles realign themselves.  But even so, I’m very happy with it.  And a bit nervous about what everyone’s going to say when I go into work on Monday… (I didn’t tell anyone what I was planning :-) )

Harvestbird accompanied me to the appointment (mainly to make sure I didn’t chicken out at the last minute :-) ), and documented the entire process (the hairdresser was having a lot of fun demonstrating various cutting techniques and hairstyles from the ages as he cut it steadily shorter), so once she’s uploaded the photos (and video!) I’ll post them here for everyone’s amusement.


Sorry it’s been such a long time between posts.  Work was stupidly busy for a while there (it still is, but at least I’ve got my two new staff now, which has taken some of the pressure off), so I’ve been getting home at night and just crashing, and haven’t been feeling inspired to write.  I really should try and get into the habit again though – I’ve actually been having all sorts of non-work adventures, but haven’t had time/energy to write about any of them.

Most recent was that last Tuesday Dana and I went to see a talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which was amazing (even if I did have the odd moment of wishing he was Carl Sagan instead (hashtag geek-child of the 70s)).  For a start, it was at the Horncastle Arena (where graduation was), which is Christchurch’s biggest venue, and normally reserved for big international music acts.  That a scientist was speaking to a sold-out audience in that venue was an amazing thought – rock-star scientist indeed!

He spoke very inspiringly and entertainingly too – I was so glad I went.  At the end, they had an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, but we were sitting so far up the back in the cheap seats (which were only relatively cheap – rock-star scientists command rock-star prices!) at the top of the arena that there was no way we’d have made it down to the queue for the microphone in time (not that I would have been able to think of a decent question anyway, even if I’d been sitting right up the front).  The first couple of questions were of that non-question “Here is a long rant about my favourite hot-button topic, what do you think?” type, but then people started asking really complex and interesting questions about astrophysics (some of the best questions came from kids!), and deGrasse Tyson gave wonderful answers that managed to be non-technical enough that everyone in the audience would understand it, without dumbing down any of the really deep and interesting stuff that made the questions so fascinating.  The Q&A part went way over time, because deGrasse Tyson kept saying he was going to make his answers briefer so more people would get a chance to ask a question, but then would get caught up in the complexities of the answer, and it would be just as long as the previous one.  The compère kept suggesting that maybe it was time to wrap things up, and deGrasse Tyson would agree, yes, just one more question, and then carry on :-)   By the time he finished, the security people were herding everyone out the door almost before the applause had finished – I think they wanted to get home!


I haven’t made a lot of progress quilt-wise, for similar reasons to the lack of blogging (plus it being too cold in the study most evenings).  But I managed to get a few more rows sewn onto the little squares quilt:

Although I’m loving how it’s turning out (I think it’s my favourite one I’ve made so far), I’ll be so glad to get this one finished – matching all those seams is hard work!

Lots of little squares

Finished making the nine-patches.  All 113 of them.

I’m slowly getting better at getting all the seams to match up with each other properly (nine-patches are very good practice for that!).

I haven’t got as far as actually sewing the blocks together (too much of a social life this weekend, going out to a Toastmasters thing last night, and then to a birthday party for one of the mini-Harvestbirds this afternoon), but I did stick them all up on the design wall just to see whether what I’d been imagining for the quilt would look as good in reality, and it does:

I still need to play round a bit with the exact placement of the blocks, because I just threw them up there in the order they came off the pile, so some of the colours in the nine-patches are a bit too grouped together, but I’m really pleased with how it’s looking – the colours in the nine-patches work together with the Oakshott blocks in exactly the way I’d hoped.

(Hmm, do you think mini-Harvestbird would mind if I skipped her birthday party in favour of playing with my quilt a bit more? …nah, probably should go to the party, shouldn’t I?)

So many updates

Sorry about the delay in posting.  A combination of being too busy, and having many many photos I wanted to add to a post, but my computer’s been playing up again (I’m about to give up and pay someone to fix it properly, because my “wiggle a few wires and hope” fix keeps failing) and I keep losing access to my E: drive, which happens to be where my decent photo editing software lives, and the built-in “tools” (yeah, right) that come with Windows 10 are terrible, and make me give up in frustration half way through the first photo.  However, I have armed myself with a supply of chocolate, and I am determined not to leave this computer again until I have finished editing and uploading the photos, and writing this post!

Graduation was wonderful, of course.  I was a banner bearer again, and, as I was also graduating, asked to carry the university crest banner (also known as “the dead sheep”) which leads the academic procession onto the stage.  It was raining, thanks to Cyclone Cook, so we didn’t do the full procession into the venue, just a short procession from the foyer into the hall, but it was still a very proud moment :-) So much so that I’m even going to post photos of myself here – I know, right?!  I’ll restrain from posting all of the millions of photos of the ceremony that Dad took, or all of the many many combinations of family photos from after the ceremony, but here’s just a few of my favourites:


My thesis supervisor, Heidi.


Best bit of my graduation outfit :-)

A fantastic day (ignoring the little glitch where I forgot to put my trencher back on after receiving my degree – my excuse was that I missed the briefing for graduands because I was at the rehearsal for the banner bearers, so while waiting to go on stage I was frantically trying to remember the correct sequence of hold trencher in left hand, walk across stage, shake hands with Chancellor, receive degree with right hand, put trencher back on, leave stage without tripping down stairs, and I kind of forgot one step.  Either that I was just so happy to be graduating my brain had shut down :-) )

After the ceremony I took the Niblings back to the campus (graduation is always held off-campus, because there’s no on-campus venue big enough – before the earthquakes it was held in the Town Hall, but now it’s out at Horncastle Arena).  Our first stop was the staff club, where they were putting on a barbecue lunch for graduates and families.  We sat with the other Linguistics postgrads (almost all of whom were there, despite only a couple of us graduating that day, because one of the PhD students was the musical act for the barbecue, so everyone else had come along to watch him play), and I think the kids were suitably impressed by the number of accents around the table (the Linguistics department gets a lot of postgrads coming from overseas to study here – for a while, I was the only postgrad in the department who spoke NZ English!).

Niece also got to chat with the Chancellor.  She’d come with me up to the bar to get a soft drink, and the Chancellor, who was sitting nearby, came over and asked her if she was going to come to UC when she grows up.  She told him she’d think about it :-)  When we went back to our seats, asked me if he was the guy who’d been wearing the fancy clothes up on stage, so I explained she’d just been chatting with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.

After lunch I took the kids for a tour around the campus – Nephew #1 is getting to an age where he’s starting to think about his university options, so he was interested to just have a look around the campus (I think he was surprised at just how big it is, compared to the little country high school he attends!).  Apparently what impressed Niece the most was visiting my office – when she got home, she excitedly told everyone we each have two computers on our desks (actually, we just have just dual monitors, but close enough :-))

The next day was my graduation party.  And the rain continued.  We’d put up a couple of marquees in the back yard the night before to try and keep the ground a bit drier, and by morning the rain had eased off to just drizzle, but it was still pretty damp.  I decided we were going to make the most of it, though, so I decided to use the garage as another dry space if required, declared the sunroom as the kids’ room and stocked it with colouring materials so that parents would have a warm and dry place to safely deposit their small people (under the “supervision” of Niece) if needed, declared the house to be a shoes-off zone to avoid too much tracking of mud in and out, and we set to work (with the help of Fuzzle, who’d arrived the night before, and Lytteltonwitch, who’d come early to help out) sweeping away all the leaves that had fallen in the winds overnight, and decorating the marquees and garage with balloons and streamers to try and cheer up the gloomy day.  Havestbird arrived to do clever things with my hair, so her girls helped out with the decorations, and by the time Jan (the caterer, a former colleague of mine who took redundancy from the university to set up a “pop-up tearooms” business) arrived to set up the food, everything was looking very colourful.

Amazingly, the rain stopped just in time for the party, and the sun even made a weak attempt to peek out from among the clouds.  A few people I’d hoped would be able to come didn’t make it (most notably, Jenny and Christian, who’d come over from Australia for the party, but ended up spending the day in the emergency room instead after Christian had a bad allergic reaction to some medication he’d taken the day before), but a whole load of my favourite people were there (including my other supervisor, Lynn, who hadn’t been able to come to graduation because she has a very new baby, so I was so happy she was at the party), and everyone got on really well (always a worry when you bring together people from different parts of your life), and the food was wonderful (of course! I knew Jan would produce something wonderful :-) ), and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

I’d asked my nephews to be waiters, half expecting them to get bored and wander off to play on the computer after half an hour, but they did a fantastic job, and spent the afternoon enthusiastically helping Jan out in the kitchen, and handing round drinks, tea, and plates of goodies.  They took their instructions a little bit too literally though – I asked them to make sure all the guests had a drink, and they did exactly that, offering everyone a drink as they arrived, and keeping glasses and tea-cups topped up.  But they never brought me a drink, of course, because I wasn’t a guest! :-)  But I was a very proud aunty anyway, because everyone kept telling me how polite the boys were.


The fanciest my hair has ever been! (Harvestbird made good use of her mother-to-two-small-girls braiding skills)


Lyttelton’s “plus one”, Albert. Wearing an Easter Bunny costume in honour of Good Friday, of course.


Albert ended up a little bit the worse for wear…


I discovered later that Niece had decorated my front doorstep with a chalk portrait of me as FutureCat :-) (The writing says “Don’t rub off”)


The aftermath. Despite the best efforts of Jan and the boys, it’s impossible to carry plates of food in and out to a muddy garden while keeping the floor clean (at least the kitchen is accessible via the back door, so they could constrain the mud to the linoleum, and not have to track it through the carpet in the front hall). It was still a big job washing all that mud off the floor the next morning, although the doormat took the brunt of it…

Although we were all very full with cake (There was a HUGE amount of cake.  And little sandwiches.  And scones with jam and clotted cream.  As I may have mentioned, Jan did a fantastic job with the catering), after most of the guests had departed, the rest of us headed into town to the food trucks in the Square, as I’d promised Dad we would last time he visited.   There weren’t as many people as usual (probably because of the weather and the holiday), so there weren’t the usual queues for the popular trucks, so we had a pleasant evening sampling the fare from various trucks and watching a group of break-dancers.

The next morning I had a surprise planned for the Niblings, as a late and/or early birthday present – I’d bought us all (plus Dad and Lytteltonwitch) tickets to the Crate Escape, an escape room that’s just opened in Christchurch.  Escape rooms are pretty new in NZ, so none of us had done one before.  It was great fun – we were locked into a room (inside a shipping container, of course – this is Christchurch, after all) and had 90 minutes to find the clues that would let us out.  The puzzles you had to solve were really nicely varied, so everyone had a chance to be good at something, and most of them needed some sort of teamwork (usually because half of a clue would be at one end of the room, and the other at the other end, so you’d have to communicate with each other to get the complete answer), so it was perfect to do as a group.  We got a pretty good time considering it was our first time – the guy on the front desk told us the average is 50 minutes, and we managed it in 45.

Niece went back to Alexandra with Dad and Stepmother that afternoon, but the boys stayed on with me for a few days (as did Fuzzle).  After all the excitement of graduation and the party, we had a pretty low-key remainder of the Easter break – mostly doing jigsaws and playing on the computer, with a few excursions into town for meals and to visit the Art Gallery.  It was still a fun visit though, and I think all enjoyed themselves.

I managed to catch up with Jenny and Christian for lunch (at Foo San, of course!) before they headed back to Brisbane.  It was great to see Jenny again after so long (I was surprised to realise it’s been four years since they moved to Australia!), and to realise that she’s one of those wonderful sort of friends where you can not see each other for years, and then just pick up the conversation where you left off.  They had a graduation present for me too – a voucher to Scorpios bookshop (they know me so well :-) )  So of course I grabbed the first opportunity I could to pop into town and do a little shopping:

The other seriously cool graduation present I got was from Mum – a sewing table.  Actually, I’d been looking at them for a while, and had pretty much made up my mind to just buy myself one, but Mum suggested it would make a good graduation present.  It was supposed to arrive before graduation, but there was a saga with the courier company (I never did figure out exactly what happened, but the track and trace kept telling me it was in Christchurch and would be delivered that day… the next day… the next day… until I finally rang them and the person who answered the phone discovered that for some reason it had just been sitting in the depot for a week, and was never even loaded onto the van for delivery… She was most apologetic, and it got delivered to me a couple of hours later.  The company was Post Haste, in case you want to know who to avoid in future).

Anyway, I finally got my table, and (after quite a bit of rearranging of the furniture in the study) got it set up:

It’s seriously cool – the machine sits down within the table, so that the tabletop is flush with the bed of the machine, which effectively gives you a sewing surface the size of the table – so much easier than trying to manoeuvre a quilt around on a tiny surface, and also ergonomically much better, because you’re sewing at a more natural height than when the machine is up on top of a table.

While I was rearranging furniture, I moved the bookcases out of the study so that I could have a design wall. It’s another thing I’ve wanted for ages – somewhere other than the floor to lay out quilt pieces so you can rearrange the pieces and plan how the finished quilt will look before you sew it together.

I was really pleased how it turned out. It’s just a flannelette sheet stapled to the wall (cotton fabric sticks wonderfully to flannelette, so it works great for a design wall – you don’t need to pin the pieces up or anything), but it looks quite professional. I think I need to stop calling this room my study though. Previously it was a study that happened to have a sewing machine in it, but now it’s more like a sewing room that happens to have a computer in it.

The pieces on the wall are the beginnings of a mini-quilt I promised the union organiser I’d make for the TEU’s Rainbow Te Kahukura subcommittee – she’s going to hang it in the window of the union offices as a sign that the union is an LGBTQI+ friendly space. Of course, once I’d started playing with my new setup, I had to keep going, so I ended up finishing the entire quilt by the next day – quilted with a rainbow design, of course :-) (I also discovered another use for my design wall – it make a great place to photograph work in progress!)

I tore myself away from my sewing on Saturday morning to go to the March for Science with Harvestbird and family. I had some cardboard from the box the table came in, so I plagiarised a few of the best slogans I’d seen on line for signs.

The march was quite small (just a few hundred people, from what I could tell), but very good-natured, and the speeches at the end were thankfully short, so it was a most enjoyable event. The elder mini-Harvestbird was very excited that she got to carry a sign in the march – Harvestbird is obviously doing a great job of raising future activists :-)

Some random photos from the march: (and then I’m never posting another photo until I get this computer fixed, because not having a decent photo editor is driving me mad!!!)

At least I don’t have any photos to post for last night’s excursion (even though the whole point of it was to take photos).  As those of you who live in appropriate latitudes will know, there’s been a very impressive display of aurora for the last couple of nights, so last night Lytteltonwitch suggested we take a road trip out to Lake Ellesmere, which is away from the lights of the city, and has a good clear view to the south, and see if we could spot them.  It had been a beautifully clear day, so the chances seemed good, so we headed out after the sun had set.  Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, it was covered in mist, which quickly thickened into fog, so it was impossible to see anything of the sky.  We decided to try Rakaia Huts instead, so got back in the car to head over there.

As we drove back round the base of the hills, there was a continuous stream of traffic heading out to the lake – I reckon everyone in Christchurch must have had the same idea, despite the ever-thickening fog.  Most people were driving to the conditions (the fog was so thick that the visibility was down to tens of metres, and it’s a typical NZ country road – unlit, winding, and narrow), so the traffic was travelling pretty slowly.  Unfortunately, some people weren’t so sensible, and were getting impatient at the slow traffic, so we were very nearly in a head-on collision when one driver decided to try and pass the long line of traffic.  In thick fog.   On a narrow country road.

The first we saw of him was a faint orange glimmer of lights through the fog, which I at first thought were the tail-lights of a car in front of us.  By the time my brain had registered that they didn’t look quite right for tail-lights, and seemed to be getting closer rather fast, Lytteltonwitch had slammed on the brakes (luckily we were going slowly enough that the car behind us had time to react too).  Thankfully the idiot coming towards us also just had time to react, and managed to pull back into the traffic on his side of the road (there was a lot of horn tooting going on at that moment!), or he would have hit us head on.  We were only doing about 60 km/h, and he wouldn’t have been going a lot faster, but still the combined impact would have been enough for a very serious crash, especially considering the amount of other traffic around us.  Quite a scary moment!

After we got our heartbeats back down to something approaching normal, we decided we’d carry on to Rakaia Huts (driving very slowly and carefully!), but there was fog out there too.  We did contemplate going up the Port Hills to try and get above the fog, but decided that the half of Christchurch that hadn’t gone to Lake Ellesmere would be up in the hills, and we’d had enough near misses for one night without tempting fate on roads with sheer drops alongside them, so we headed back into town (via the well-lit main highway!).  So no photos of the aurora, but at least we’re still alive!

And that’s (phew!) everything that I’ve been up to for the last week or two.

Cat on a cold tin roof

Amazingly, the sun actually came out over the weekend, and the forecast for Thursday and Friday is now just “drizzle at time”, rather than rain.  Drizzle at times I can handle.  Drizzle at times means just ducking under the shelter of the marquee for a few minutes until the sun comes out again.  Drizzle at times won’t rain out my party.

I spotted the neighbour’s cat making the most of the sunshine on the roof of my garage yesterday morning.  I’m not sure how he got up there, but given that I know he can leap to the top of the fence easily enough, the extra leap to the roof probably isn’t that tricky.

I had an incredibly busy weekend (and this week is going to be even busier!). On Saturday morning I met up with Lytteltonwitch and we went to the Food Show. Like last year, I got sent free tickets from a PR company (so I probably should have got round to posting something about it before the show was over, so that you’d have the chance to go if liked my pretty pictures, but like I said, too busy…). I don’t know if it was just because it was the second year I’ve been, or because I’ve got a million other things on my mind at the moment, but I wasn’t as impressed by it this year as I was last year – there seemed to be fewer exhibitors (or maybe just fewer exhibitors with products I was interested in), and the celebrity chefs on offer didn’t inspire me greatly (although that’s a matter of personal choice – I know lots of people were raving over Annabel Langbein being there, but she doesn’t really do much for me). However, there was still quite a lot to see: creatively presented exhibits, “health” foods made out of every ingredient you could imagine (my favourite was the raspberry and artichoke (and possibly garlic – it wasn’t entirely clear from their signage) dip), inventive products you never knew you needed, and people in silly hats. And of course, many many free samples. Definitely didn’t need lunch after doing the rounds of the exhibits!

I even bought something – some beeswax-infused cloths that you can use to wrap food instead of using gladwrap or plastic bags. I seem to go through a vast amount of gladwrap taking lunch to work, so we’ll see if these work out better. Or whether I just get lazy about the extra effort of cleaning the cloth each time I use it, and go back to quick and easy plastic…

After we left the Food Show, I dashed up to Northlands to buy some almost last minute bits and pieces for my party, then back home to get ready to go out again. Dana, one of our volunteers, had invited me to her birthday party, at a karaoke bar. I was a bit doubtful about the karaoke, having only experienced it (or rather, avoided it) in the “getting up to sing in front of a bar full of drunken idiots” NZ version, but this turned out to be the more traditional version. Our party (only 8 people) had a private room, which made the idea of singing much less intimidating (especially as none of Dana’s other friends knew me, so I didn’t mind making a fool of myself in front of them :-)). Dana spent a few years living in Japan, and speaks Japanese fluently, so the party was a mix of about half Japanese (or Japanese-speaking) people, and the other half Pakeha NZers, and the music choices reflected that – we were going from anime theme tunes to Disney musicals, and pop songs from half a dozen countries. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected, and the three hours we had the room booked for flew past very quickly!

On Sunday, Harvestbird came round for a graduation hair rehearsal. She’s been learning to do all sorts of fancy hair braiding (one of the perils of having two daughters, apparently), so offered to do something clever with my hair for graduation. So while the girls were occupied making decorations for the party, she experimented with various styles, and managed to come up with something that should look good under a trencher, without being too “girly” (the main two instructions I gave her :-)). Photos will of course follow at a later date.

Then I had to get dressed up to go out again, this time for dinner with Pieta, a friend from work. She’s away for Easter, and was most disappointed she wouldn’t be able to make it to my party, so suggested we go out for dinner to celebrate instead. We went to Strawberry Fare, which I haven’t been to for years – it’s expensive, but the food (ok, the desserts – nobody goes to Strawberry Far for the mains, they’re just what you order so you can pretend you’re a responsible adult) is really good. And the service has definitely improved from what it was like before the earthquakes – you actually get the kind of service you’d expect for the prices, now.

Pieta has been learning to weave, and gave me a lovely bouquet of flax flowers she’d spent the day weaving:

So yeah, a very full weekend. Tonight I’m going to a sciency/mathsy stand-up show, then tomorrow I’ve got a full-day workshop at work, and in the evening there’s a Toastmasters meeting, and a farewell for one of our members, then on Wednesday I’ve got to pick up my graduation regalia, and organise some more last-minute stuff, then family are arriving in the evening, then Thursday is graduation, then Fuzzle arrives that night, and Friday is my party, and on Saturday I’m taking the kids to the Crate Escape for their joint belated/early birthday present… and I’m already feeling exhausted just thinking about it! Good thing Easter and ANZAC Day fall so close together this year, so I can take the few days off in between and have a nice long break – I’m going to need it!

Options

One of the fun bits about quilting is once you’ve got your main pieces made, and have a million possible ways to put them together into bigger blocks.  I started playing around with a few options for the Three Dudes block this morning, and there were so many possibilities!

I was tempted by this pinwheel arrangement at first:

It looks really cool on its own, but then when I tried putting it together with a few more blocks, it wasn’t as interesting, because it didn’t make any of the cool secondary blocks that is the whole point of the Three Dudes block.

Plus, I realised I’d made a crucial error in the previous stage when I was sewing the squares together, and had ended up with some pieces that had the opposite rotation to the rest, which is why the top left-hand corner is weird. You can see the problem if you look at the “tick” shapes in the photo below – one ticks to the left, and the other to the right. So a layout based on rotational symmetry wasn’t going to work.

So I went back to the layout I’d originally planned on using (which doesn’t show up the wrongly-rotated blocks so badly). Or rather, three different layouts that produce the same overall pattern, but centre a different part of the pattern, so change the overall look of the quilt because of the ways the colours change between blocks.

Option 1:

Option 2:

Option 3:

At the moment I’m wavering between option 2 and option 3.  Probably option 2.  Possibly.  Maybe.  Too many options!!!


Speaking of too many options, I roped Harvestbird into a shopping expedition this morning, to help me find an outfit to wear to graduation.  For a shopping expedition that started out as “I have no idea what I’m looking for, but here is a very long list of things I absolutely do not want”, it went remarkably well, and, after visiting every shop in Hornby Mall, plus most of the ones in Dressmart,  I ended up with an outfit that is simple enough not to set off all my “arggh, I hate getting dressed up fancy” alarms, but still dressy enough to look like I did actually make an effort.  I even found shoes I liked!  (Spoiler warning, they have sparkles :-) )

Our only failure was to find an 80s-style brocade waistcoat, but as that potential addition to the outfit was mainly inspired by me commenting that obviously my aspirational style icon is Duckie from Pretty in Pink :-), after discovering that that aspect of retro 80s style hasn’t yet come back into fashion (at least, not in the shops we visited), and a trawl through the big second-hand place in Hornby failed to turn anything up, I decided it wasn’t essential.  So we gave up the search and instead rewarded our shopping diligence with cake and yum cha.  Which is how all shopping expeditions should conclude.

Photographic evidence of the shopping success will have to wait until graduation, when I’m sure many photos will be taken.

Productivity

It’s been a busy but very productive weekend.  The first thing I achieved was yesterday morning, when I got a load of firewood delivered, and managed to get it stacked into the garage in record time.  That hadn’t been the plan, because I was supposed to be going to Mr Harvestbird’s birthday party, but when I rang the firewood company earlier in the week to place the order, they had a cancellation that meant they could deliver yesterday instead of me having to wait for weeks, so I said yes, thinking I could leave it to stack today.  But then the forecast was for rain all weekend, so I had to get it stacked inside straight away before it got too wet.  I was pretty impressed with myself that I managed to get the whole load stacked in just a couple of hours, even if it did mean I was a bit late for the party by the time I’d finished and had a shower.

The party was fun – as always is the case at the Harvestbirds’ parties, a real mixture of different types of people (accompanied by what seemed to be hordes of small children) , with pass the parcel and bubble machines (I want one!) for the children, playstation for the teens, and fancy cocktails for the adults.

This morning I scrubbed down the kitchen table so I could try table-basting my Jelly Roll Race quilt.  It worked really well, and was so much easier than trying to do it on the floor like I have with other quilts, because you’re not having to crawl all over the quilt, wrinkling it up as fast as you’re smoothing it out.  You don’t even need a massive table for it, because you work in sections, smoothing the layers out and securing them with clips before pinning them together, then you unclip it and move to the next section.  I even found a great tip (which of course I forgot to save the link to, so I can’t give credit for it) for making sure the various layers are centred on each other properly:  you tape a couple of skewers to the centre of the table before you start, then you can feel them through the fabric as you add each layer of fabric and batting, so that you can make sure all the centres end up in the same place.

Lots of photos of the process:

I didn’t start the actual quilting, because I wanted to continue working on the blocks for the Three Dudes quilt, but it’s all basted now and ready to go when I feel inspired to get back to some free-motion quilting.

Talking of the Three Dudes quilt, that’s what I spent the rest of the afternoon working on. I managed to get all the strip sets sewn together, and then cut the strips up into 10.5 inch lengths so that they’re square. That’s not the final block though – next step is to sew them back together (in a different way, of course!), and then cut them again, and then sew them again… and after all that they should come out looking really interesting. But that’s a job for another productive weekend.

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!

Two for the price of one

Typical, you go for weeks without a blog post, and then two come along at once!  This one is because I spent the afternoon out at Tai Tapu with Lytteltonwitch, at a sculpture exhibition, and took very many photos, so I thought I’d better get them edited and posted before they get added to the long list of things I mean to do but never quite get round to.

The exhibition was really interesting.  It was held in a large country garden, and the sculptures ranged from huge monoliths dominating the lawn to tiny glass figures hidden among the trees.  Some of the pieces live in the garden permanently, but most were for sale, but with prices starting in the thousands, I was definitely just there to look, not to buy!

Here’s a few of the pieces that particularly caught my eye:


Llew Summers, Haven of Souls (2017)


Robyn Webster, Turning Point (2016)


Anna Korver, Impossible staircase (2016)


(This one wasn’t in the catalogue, so I’ve got no idea who created it, or what it’s called, but it amused me)


Matt Williams, Infinity (2016)


Ben Foster, Infinity (2014)


Jeff Thomson, Mahoe (2017)


Doug Neil, The Rocks (2013)


Annabel Menzies-Joyce and friends, The Fertility Goddess Grove (2013)


Neil Dawson, Vortex (2016)


Llew Summers, It’s A Topsy Turvy World (2010)


Bing Dawe, A Landscape with Too Many Holes, Waiting for St Francis – A Gateway (2015)