X marks the cat, and other expenses

So it seems I can either write blog posts, or I can record videos.  Doing either one seems to sap my creative energy for doing the other (or maybe it’s just that doing one makes me forget about the other).  Which is a roundabout way of saying I’ve been even more terrible than usual at keeping up with this blog.  I have been having a lot of fun with YouTube though :-)

In the meantime, life has been a combination of busy, exciting, and expensive. Especially expensive, and especially this month.  At the same time as various opportunities arose to spend vast amounts of money on cool things, various existing expensive things decided to break and need immediate replacing.

Cool thing number one was that I finally got all my paperwork together to get my passport renewed.  Which was a bit more paperwork than normal, because I took the (some may say sudden and drastic, although I have actually been thinking about it for a couple of years, ever since they announced the law change to make it possible) step of getting my gender marker changed to an X.  I am now officially, at least in the eyes of the Department of Internal Affairs, outside the gender binary!

(Hopefully I’ve successfully blurred/obscured all of the important identity-theft-enabling bits of that photo!)

It actually was much less complicated a process than I expected.  All I had to do was sign a statutory declaration in front of a JP, and then go through the process of a complete new passport application rather than just a renewal.  The most difficult thing was getting the photo done, because you have to use the paper forms (because they haven’t updated the on-line process yet), so I needed to find somewhere I could get old-fashioned printed passport photos, instead of the digital format most places do now (it turns out Post Shops still do them, in case anyone else ever needs one).

It’s hard to describe just how happy I am to see that one little letter in my passport! (Though also a tiny bit nervous about whether it will cause any problems at borders – in theory it shouldn’t, because it’s a perfectly valid passport issued under NZ law, but who knows what border officials will choose to be nit-picky about.  Oh well, I’ll get to test it out in November… which brings us to the next exciting expense…)

The next cool thing was (now that I finally had my new passport so I could) booking flights to go to the NZ-AUS Bookcrossing uncon in Tasmania.  It’s going to be a small, very informal uncon along similar lines to Stewart Island – basically just hanging out together on a (slightly larger :-)) island, doing a few touristy things, but nothing too planned.  Just a long weekend, but I’m really looking forward to it.  Plus I get to add another Australian state to my list of places I’ve visited (only Northern Territory to go…).

The third cool thing is I bought myself a GoPro!  It hasn’t arrived yet, but I should get it in a week or so.  Totally stupid thing to buy when I’d just spent a lot of money on Tasmania (it’s not the cheapest place to get to from NZ – even though it’s closer to NZ than the rest of Australia, there’s no direct flights, so you have to fly via Melbourne), but I’d been looking at them longingly ever since I started playing round with the YouTube thing, and the opportunity came up to save a couple of hundred dollars on one, so it was too good to miss.  So once that arrives, expect me to get even worse at blogging than I am now… (you might as well just give up following me here, and subscribe to my YouTube channel instead)

And then, having spent all that money, the Word Festival programme came out.  And there were so many things I wanted to go to.  And last time, when I managed to miss out on some of the best sessions due to indecision, I told myself that next time I’d just book tickets to everything that interested me, and take time off work if necessary, and see all the things.  So I did.  Including a day-trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching with two whale experts on Tuesday, and something like eight other ordinary festival events between Thursday and Sunday.  Plus I’ve got a few more free events I may go to if I haven’t completely exhausted myself dashing around all the events I’ve booked for.  So it’s going to be a very busy week this week!

And then there were the less fun expenses.  First, my lawnmower died.  Mini-Gwilk, who does my lawns for me, came in looking sheepish one day and said something along the lines of “Um, was I supposed to put oil in the lawnmower or something? Because it’s stopped working, and there’s black smoke coming out.”  Luckily, it didn’t turn out to be *too* expensive to repair, but it was a bit of a pain, because I don’t have a car (and taxis for some reason aren’t keen on carrying dirty old garden equipment in their nice clean cars), so had to beg lifts from friends (many many many thanks, Mr Harvestbird!!!) to get it to the repair place and picked up again afterwards, and the repair place is only open on Saturday mornings, which required a lot of coordination with said friends.  But all was managed in the end, and I now have a nicely working lawnmower (and instructions from repair guy about what to tell mini-Gwilk what not to do next time).

And then, because black smoke is apparently not dramatic enough, I turned on my oven and the fan unit started shooting out bright white sparks and flames.  Cue FutureCat scrambling to switch it off at the wall!  Luckily all of the dramatic stuff was confined to the inside of the oven, so there was no risk of the fire spreading, but it was still pretty exciting for a moment there.  And then depressing, when I contacted my friendly electrician, and he confirmed that it probably wasn’t worth him even coming out to look at it, because I almost certainly needed to buy a new one (and that 18 years is actually pretty old for an appliance).  And then he improved my mood substantially by offering to source a new one for me (and even better, only charge me cost + his time, with no extra markup), which was a great relief, because I really wasn’t looking forward to devoting my entire weekend to trawling through whiteware shops with no real idea of what was good vs what was just marketing hype.  He managed to find me a decent brand (Westinghouse) at trade prices, which even with his time plus the installation cost still cost me way less than it would have to buy retail (and I’d still have had to pay installation anyway), so I was very happy with that, even though it’s an expense I would have rather not had at all (or at least, not this month – though I wasn’t going to wait any longer to replace the oven – even just the couple of weeks I was without it while waiting for it to be delivered was much longer than I ever want to eat microwaved meals for ever again!)

So that was my horrifically expensive August.  I haven’t added up everything I’ve spent this month, and I don’t think I want to!  Oh well, this is why I have an emergency savings account, for times exactly like this. Just hope nothing else expensive happens for a while, so I can top it back up again…


In crafty news, the main thing I’ve been working on are quilts for the two mini-Harvestbirds (who have declared their official internet pseudonyms to be “Harmony” and “Millie”). It started off as a fun idea – I’d design a couple of simple quilts, let them pick the fabrics, and participate in the layout process so they’ll feel like they’d had a hand in the design, and, as a bonus, turn the whole thing into a series of YouTube videos.  I should have remembered that old rule about never working with children or animals though, because things didn’t entirely go according to plan.  Harmony’s quilt went perfectly (despite me messing up my initial calculations for the block measurements) – she was so excited about the idea of being in a YouTube video (suitably anonymised, of course) that I think she would have agreed to anything I suggested.  She was totally happy with the design, with the fabric choices I offered, with everything, really.  All went smoothly, we sewed the first few blocks together, and then after the kids had left, I was able to quickly whip up the rest of the blocks over a lazy weekend. The blocks are now sitting waiting for a free weekend when I can invite the kids over again to help me design the final layout of the quilts.

Millie, on the other hand, was a different matter.  I forgot just how much she has very much her own tastes and opinions on things, so she rejected my first few suggestions, and there was much scrabbling through half-thought-out sketches in my design book before we found one she liked.  Which I then had to turn from sketch into actual design on the spot… which was a fun challenge :-)  I have to say though, she’s got very good taste – the colour combinations she wanted are going to look amazing, and I suspect I’m going to be very pleased with the finished quilt. The only problem is, it’s an incredibly complex design (it’s one I had in my book as a “one day, when I’ve got time” idea), so it’s definitely not one I’ll get finished in an afternoon.   So far I’ve managed to cut out all the pieces, and sew the 96 (!!!) half-square triangles it needs for the main stars (and that doesn’t include all the snowballed corners I’ll need for the sashing stars).  And I haven’t even begun to sew the actual blocks (other than the one I quickly sewed on the day the kids were here, so she could see what they’d end up like).  Given how busy the next couple of weekends are going to be, part two of the video might not happen for a while.

It is going to be a gorgeous-looking quilt, though:

In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s the video of part one of the process:

In the meantime, I gave the girls another mini-quilt for their dolls, while they wait for their actual quilts. Once again I had one of those practice quilt sandwiches I’d been trying out various FMQ ideas and exercises on (you might be able to identify a few recent projects on there), so I squared it up and stuck a quick binding on it.

I actually reckon it looks not bad for a bunch of random practice stuff :-)

(Oh, and if you were wondering, no, I haven’t abandoned the Block of the Whenever – I’ve just been distracted by other things. Once I get these two quilts finished, I’m definitely going back to it)


Otherwise, I have as usual been busy with all sorts of interesting things, none of which I can remember off the top of my head right now.  I feel like I’ve been being excessively social this year!

Just this weekend I went to a feminist poetry reading with Harvestbird on Friday night (which was being run by step-sister, so I also caught up with her briefly before the show), which featured some really amazing local poets (Tusiata Avia being the most notable, and also the most incredible to listen to – I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy hearing her perform her poetry).  And then last night I played D&D with Gwilk and some other friends.  I was playing a wizard for the first time ever, which meant a lot of new rules to learn, but was fun to try out – I can see a lot of potential in the character (though I think Thokk will always be my favourite).

And last weekend was another D&D game, plus going out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group, and the weekend before that I went to the Botanic D’Lights festival (see video below) with Lytteltonwitch, and a stash swap, and in between there’s been various work events, and I’m exhausted just writing this, but it’s actually all been a huge amount of fun. I feel like I’m finally figuring out the right amount of social stuff that stays enjoyable without making me want to go and hide in a corner for a few days :-)

When the government forces you to lie

Thanks, StatsNZ!

Actually, I heard from a reliable source that the internal recommendation from Statistics NZ was to include an “other” category, but it was rejected by higher powers (read: the Minister) because it would cost too much, and there’s not that many trans*/gender diverse people in NZ anyway (except of course the question has never been asked in the census, so nobody knows what the true proportion is), plus what about all those people who’d write in a silly answer and mess up the statistics? (to which the only response is what about all the people who now can’t answer that question accurately, so have to give an untrue/incomplete answer, and mess up the statistics?)

I know a lot of trans*/gender diverse people are protesting by requesting a paper form and writing in their gender, but I wasn’t organised enough to do that in time, and anyway, I do actually like the idea in principle of an on-line census (as long as it’s backed up by paper forms for those who don’t have a computer/internet access, of course). So I just had to tell a lie to the government.

And then there’s the whole NZ European/Pākehā issue…

When decisions get too hard…

…start something new :-)

I still haven’t made up my mind about the border for the Three Dudes quilt (which (prompted by Mum asking why it was called Three Dudes, and me realising that the answer was that it was based loosely on a quilt design that was based loosely on a quilt design that was originally called Three Dudes, so by now it is very far removed from the original concept!) I have decided to rename as the Cordon Fence quilt (because the criss-crossing of the dark strips reminds me of chain-link fencing, and because Christchurch)), I’ve set it aside to think about another day.  Which meant my sewing machine was sitting empty.  Which is a bad thing!

The first solution to this problem was to spend some time consolidating some of the blocks I’ve slowly been accumulating for my super scrappy left-over-bits-from-my-scrap-basket quilt, and start connecting them together into bigger strips. Suprisingly, my occasionally grabbing a handful of scraps and sewing them together added up to quite a bit of quilt:


(The little green stars and blue hearts aren’t part of the design – they’re just post-its I stuck on there to remind me what size blocks I was aiming for)

The longest strip is long enough to go the full width of a quilt, and the others are getting close. I’ll need twice as many strips to make up a full quilt top, but even so, that’s about a third of a quilt made so far, all from scraps I would otherwise have thrown away (plus a few sample blocks where I was testing out how an idea would work).

Hmm, I suppose the real message I should take from this is that patchwork is an incredibly wasteful process!


I also started a brand-new project (because having four unfinished quilts in the production line is never enough :-) ), inspired by a charm pack (i.e. a pre-cut set of 5 inch squares) of Oakshott fabrics I’ve had sitting in my stash since forever. I won them during TartanKiwi’s In Flight quiltalong, and put them aside because the fabrics, though just small pieces, were so nice that they deserved to be used in a project that highlighted them somehow.

Except I had no idea how to do that, so they’ve just sat there for the last couple of years, waiting on inspiration.  Which finally struck the other day, when I came up with an idea that (I hope) will show off 30 small squares of plain but colourful fabric beautifully.  So I spent a very enjoyable hour or so picking out a selection of patterned fabrics to add to the charm pack:

A very busy collection, but that’s the idea – the plan is they’ll provide a contrast to the plain squares, while keeping all the colours in roughly the same tonal range.

I’ve actually made a bit more progress than that on the project – I cut most of the pieces yesterday, and made a start on sewing the units together that will eventually make up the blocks.  But by the time I thought to take more photos, it was getting too dark, so you’ll just have to wait to see what I’ve got planned :-)


In other news, work has been a bit stressful lately. On the plus side, I’m involved in a really exciting (and challenging! It’s definitely going to be stretching my coding skills!) project to produce a digital edition of a medieval manuscript. I’ve been sort of project managing/overseeing the project for a while, but not all that heavily involved in the actual work, but since Lucy-Jane left the lab, I’ve had to pick up a lot of the coding work she was doing, which is involving quite a steep learning curve (especially as it uses a language I’m not familiar with (both in the computer language sense, and in the human language sense, because the manuscript is in Latin! Although thankfully I don’t need to worry about that side of things – we have historians doing all the clever need-to-be-able-to-read Latin stuff, I just have to help make their work appear on the computer screen in the right way. Although I suspect I will have picked up quite a bit of Latin before we’re finished!)). So that’s something fun and juicy to get my teeth into.

On the minus side, a couple of days after Lucy-Jane left, Rosalee also put in her resignation. Not that I blame either of them for leaving – they’re both going to exciting new opportunities that they would have been mad to turn down (Lucy-Jane to a private sector programming job, Rosalee to work in social justice activism), but it’s suddenly dropped the Lab from three staff (plus the boss, who is teaching pretty much full time, so we don’t see much of him) down to one, and there’s no way I can pick up all of the work myself. Which puts the Lab in a bit of danger as to its long-term viability. Luckily the university has approved us taking on a couple of extra staff for the rest of the year (at the end of which my contract runs out anyway, so we’ll be having to make a business case to continue the Lab anyway), but it’s going to be tough getting them up to speed quickly enough that it doesn’t damage any of the projects we’ve got on the go.

Yeah, interesting times… Oh well, better than being bored, I suppose :-)


The Word literary festival, by piggybacking on the Auckland festival, have been having an autumn season, basically bringing a few of the authors who were going to Auckland anyway down to Christchurch.  I’ve only managed to get to one of the events (they all sold out very fast!) – a reading/performance by Ivan Coyote (whose book was one of the ones I bought at Scorpios the other day).  It was a great night – their work manages to be incredibly entertaining while touching on some pretty deep issues.  I thought about staying for their book signing afterwards, but chickened out – I never know what to say to authors at signings, and end up just mumbling a vague “Hi, I think you’re great, please sign this” and rushing away, and then think of all the cool and articulate stuff I wish I’d said afterwards.  And anyway, the queue was incredibly long, so I was worried if I stayed I’d miss my bus.

Of course, the minute I left the venue, I was kicking myself that I hadn’t stayed, so I decided that when I got home I’d write them an email to tell them how much I’d enjoyed the show.  Which I did, and got a lovely reply from them!  Totally fan-squeeing here :-)