Saki and fireworks

And now, after all those lists, an actual post:

After a couple of days of hiding away from the world, I was feeling ready for human contact again, so a couple of invitations yesterday came just at the right moment.  First was to join Harvestbird for cake and afternoon tea in civilisation, before she heads off into the (relative) wilderness for a week with her family.    We successfully found cake at Church Corner, and spent an enjoyable afternoon dissecting popular culture (and, in particular, the new Star Wars film, which I’ve also been debating the merits of with Nephew #1 via email, so I now really need to go and see it again, so I can properly work out which of whose arguments I agree with :-) ).

Next, Dana invited me to join her and some friends for dinner at Bao Bar in Riccarton.  I’d never been there before, but was happily surprised by how good the food was.  It’s one of those places that occupies the nebulous space between fast food and a proper restaurant – they have a liquor licence and offer table service if you’re sitting upstairs (there are buttons on the tables to summon a waiter), but also do takeaways downstairs.  We shared some tasting plates (which included one of the few tofu dishes I’ve ever actually enjoyed) and dumplings, then tried a variety of “baogers” (bao buns stuffed with different meats), washed down with Champagne-style fizzy saki (which was very sweet, and very drinkable, though I could feel it going to my head pretty fast!).

After dinner we all went back to Dana’s place and played a rather chaotic board game involving a train robbery, complete with jumping from carriage to carriage, and the robbers all attempting to shoot and punch each other while stealing the loot and avoiding the sheriff.  I think I ended up coming last, but it was still a lot of fun.

A couple of the guests left after the game, as they had to go home to relieve their babysitter.  I considered leaving then too, as I had no particular desire to stay up to see the New Year in, but then someone suggested we could all walk down to Hagley Park to watch the fireworks at midnight, so I was talked into staying.  It was only about 11 pm by then, so in the meantime, Dana’s partner suggested setting up their virtual reality gear for a game.

As everyone else had had a go on it before, they gave me the first go (which actually turned out to be the only go, because by the time everything was set up, we didn’t have all that much time before we had to leave to get to the park on time).  I was a bit doubtful at first, because my previous experiences with VR a couple of years ago weren’t that impressive, but the technology has advanced very quickly – it was so much better than I’d expected.  It really did feel totally immersive (apart from occasionally feeling the cable wrap around my feet if I turned round too many times), and definitely felt like being in a physical space.  Even better, the controllers had amazing haptic feedback.  Dana’s partner set me up on an archery game, where I had to shoot barbarians storming a castle, and it really did feel like I was knocking an arrow into the bow and shooting.  I think I could have happily played that game for a very long time if we hadn’t had to go!

Just before 12 we walked down to the park, and got there just in time to hear the countdown and watch the fireworks.  We didn’t go into the official party area, but just sat by the duck pond behind the stage area, which was where they were letting the fireworks off from, so we got a fantastic view (there were quite a few people there already with cameras and tripods set up – wish I’d thought to bring my camera along!).  We sang Auld Lang Syne along with the crowd (and Mum, you’ll be glad to hear I even sang a verse of The Green Oak Tree (very quietly!) as we walked back through the park).

I’d been telling the others about New Years when I was a child, and how we used to go first footing, and Dana was fascinated by it all, so I suggested I could first foot her when we got back to her house.  It wasn’t a proper first footing, of course – I had to substitute a stick I picked up in the park for the piece of coal, and a couple of lollies I found in the bottom of my bag for the shortbread and whisky – but it’s the thought that counts, right? :-)   In return, Dana gave me a traditional Romanian blessing with a leafy branch, so a successful cultural exchange of good wishes for the coming year :-)

So it turned out to be a fun night, although a very late one – I was totally shattered by the time I got home!  Talking of which, I think an early night tonight would be a good idea.  So Happy New Year, everyone – I hope 2018 brings you joy.

2017 in first lines, and in pictures

I’ve been doing the year in first lines thing for a few years now – I think it was a post on Wondermark that gave me the idea?  Anyway, the idea is to summarise the year through the first sentence of the first post of each month.  As always, I’m cheating slightly by sometimes including a second sentence where the first wasn’t very long, or very interesting, and I generally skip posts that are just lists (like most of my 1 January posts…)

And the year in pictures is always a fun challenge, trying to pick a single photo that sums up each month.  Sometimes that’s easy, but life events don’t always neatly segment themselves into months, so some months there’s too much to choose from, and others I struggle to find a photo (especially if it was one of those times when I just never seemed to get my camera out). And of course, sometimes it’s just a pretty picture, without any particular significance other than I took it that month, and I like it.

So, in case you’re not bored with lists yet, here’s two more summarising my year:

2017 in first lines

January: Emerging, blinking, into the light

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, I’m actually writing a blog post.  And that can only mean one thing: I finished my thesis!!!!!

February: The new project

I finally made it to the fabric shop this morning, so I started work on my new project.

March: Scrappy bits

So much for my good intentions of regularly posting to my blog – that seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit!

April: Progressing

This new quilt is definitely slower going than the jelly roll race one (mainly because the seams have to be pretty accurate for it to work properly), but I am making progress.

May: Quilts in progress report

With apologies for the terrible photographs – I keep forgetting that the lighting in the study in winter isn’t particularly conducive to getting colour-accurate photos.

June: Progress, and not so much progress

My plan to use spare half hours to sew failed the moment the really cold weather set in, because I’d forgotten just how cold the study can get in winter (for some reason to do with the way the hallway bends just before the door to the study, the warmth from the fire, which happily heats the rest of the house, never quite reaches the study).

July: 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…

August: 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…

(Spoiler alert: I didn’t)

September: Out and about in Wellington

Wellington was wonderful (despite the less than stellar weather).

October: Playgrounds and Poetry

Brother and family were up at the weekend to go to a concert.

November: Wisdom in overrated anyway

A week or so ago, I had a toothache.

December: Possibly not for the faint of heart

The conference went really well – our talk seemed to be well-received (my boss was in the audience, along with at least three other people I know as experts in digital archiving, and all were nodding at the right places, so I don’t think I said anything too stupid :-) ), and (once the stress of having to present was over with, so I could actually just relax and enjoy the rest of the conference) I met all sorts of interesting people, and learnt all sorts of interesting things.

2017 in photos





(Like I said, some months it’s obvious which picture to pick :-) )




(Yeah, two photos of me in one summary post feels a bit excessive, but cutting off my hair was kind of momentous!)


(I seem to have spent a lot of time photographing craft projects this year…)





So that’s my year.  A lot of crafts, a lot of trying new things, a few adventures, a few revelations, a few new friends, a few successes, a few difficulties, but mostly a lot of learning and a lot of fun.  Which is pretty much how life should be.

What I made in 2017

I started a new list this year, of the craft projects I’d completed. It was kind of an attempt to motivate myself to actually finish things, instead of always starting new projects then leaving them half-finished when some new shiny caught my eye, but also just because (like my reading list) it’s interesting to see where the year took me, creatively.  It’s a nice reminder, too, of how my skills are progressing, and what each project has taught me.

Projects completed this year:


Does a thesis count? :-)


Heidi Hedgehog

Crocheted dishcloth

And a knitted one


Flower Garden quilt


Upholstered footstool

TEU Rainbow Te Kahukura quilt


Ok, so I didn’t actually complete anything this month, but I started a lot!


Jelly Roll Race quilt


Embroidered insects

And a quilt for dolls


Little Squares quilt


I really must get round to finishing something one day instead of just starting new things…


Skeleton Quilt

and turning an old appliqué into a cushion cover


A Christmassy mini-quilt


Recycled wrapping paper and crackers, and a wreath

and another Christmas mini-quilt

What I read in 2017

Another year, another list of books.  Quite a short list, really, considering I wasn’t studying this year, but I think somewhere over the last few years I’ve lost the reading habit slightly.  (And yes, I’m aware that for a lot of people, reading 106 books in a year (even given my rather broad definition of what a book is) is an unattainable goal, but I’ve managed to get into the 150s some years, so it’s a major reduction for me.)

Total = 106 books

January (7)

February (7)

March (7)

April (8)

May (9)

June (10)

July (7)

August (13)

September (9)

October (8)

November (11)

December (10)

  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen (library audio book)
  • Ostrich by Matt Greene
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth (e-book)
  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (library audio book)
  • New Life Stories by David Attenborough (library audio book)
  • This is How You Die edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki!
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (library audio book)
  • Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman (e-book)
  • The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (e-book)
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (library audio book)

What I read in 2016 (92 books)
What I read in 2015 (112 books)
What I read in 2014 (93 books)
What I read in 2013 (129 books)
What I read in 2012 (128 books)
What I read in 2011 (133 books)
What I read in 2010 (137 books)
What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?

2016 in words and pictures

2016 was an interesting year. For me it was of course dominated by my thesis – I basically spent the whole year in hibernation, working 50+ hour, 6-day weeks juggling a full-time job and part-time study. Of course, I did take a month off for Greece and Italy, which was pretty cool (and I promise I will finish uploading my travel journal one day, honestly!). Then there was the health scare, and more earthquakes, and so many cool people dying (Helen Kelly, Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, John Glenn…), and we won’t even mention the whole American election thing.  Yes, definitely an “interesting” year!

2016 in first lines (for a given value of “first”)

january: random pie picture

The internet is fixed, but I didn’t end up having time to go through my pictures to pick out representatives for the year, because Mum got an unexpected visitor, the son of old friends of hers.  I haven’t seen him since we were about 12, so we spent a long afternoon catching up on each others’ news and sharing old memories.

February: So much news

I have a thesis topic! For a while there this was not the case, when it looked like my proto-topic was going to be completely unviable, but one of my lovely supervisors (in related news, I have supervisors!) came to the rescue and pointed out how my ailing proto-topic could in fact be resurrected into an actual topic.

March: Emerging blinking into the sunshine

Major thesis milestone passed: I finished writing my research proposal this afternoon!  A week late, though considering the interruptions of earthquakes (and earthquake anniversaries, which is a busy time for us at work), I think I’m doing pretty well to only be a week behind.

April: Two happy things

I had to go into town for a meeting on Thursday (it still amazes me that I have the sort of job now where I get to have meetings – and not the sort where I’m only there to take minutes!), and on the way back to work I passed a sign for Scorpios’ newly reopened shop.

May: Home

Got home this afternoon after 30-odd hours spent on planes and in airports.  I’m incredibly tired, but attempting to stay awake at least until dark, to ward off the worst of the jet lag.

June: NZEENZ and other excuses

Yeah, my good intentions to get my travel journal posted didn’t come to much, did they? Usual excuse – I’ve been too busy to sit down and write … My busyness has been of an exciting (to me, anyway) kind – on Thursday I gave a paper at a Linguistics conference!!!

July: Creativity and problem-solving

As usual, I’ve failed at keeping up with my blog (and my promise to upload the rest of my Athens journal), and as usual the excuse is being too busy with thesis stuff.  I’m kind of buried under an avalanche of data at the moment, and it’s taking much longer than I anticipated to dig my way through it, with the result that every time I have a spare moment I feel like I should be doing a bit more work on it.

August: Still alive

They kept me in the hospital last night (mainly because I was last in the queue for day surgery, so didn’t get out until about 6 pm, by which time it was easier to transfer me to a ward than wait round until I was awake enough to go home), so I’ve only just got home.

September: The gory details

Wow, time has sped by again, and it’s already two weeks since my operation (and already September, and spring!).  I did mean to come back and write something more substantial than my brief post-op note of stillalivitude, but for the first week or so sitting at the computer was painful and not conducive to writing blog posts, and then I’ve been back at work and trying to catch up with everything I didn’t get done while being distracted by bodily malfunctions, so just super-busy.

October: Bright lights, pretty colours

Only three months to go until my thesis submission deadline, so it’s very much nose to the grindstone around here.  I’m making exciting progress though – one of my data sets is complete and I’ve almost managed to construct a statistical model to describe it, and the other data set is almost ready (“almost” being a relative term – there’s probably another week or two’s work to do on it) to be added to the model, so very soon I should have something resembling results.

November: Shaky Isles

Well, it’s been an … interesting… couple of weeks since I last posted.  First there was the American elections.  We were watching the results come in in our office (it was early afternoon here), and, like the rest of the world, couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing as the map turned redder and redder.

December: Still modelling…

Actually, I thought I’d finally finished my modelling a few days ago, but I met with my supervisors today, and they’ve recommended I run a few more, so it’s back to sitting waiting for models to run.

Hmm, there’s a bit of a theme there, isn’t there? :-)  I’m just impressed that there was at least one post in every month – I was sure I would have had longer gaps than that!

2016 in photos

(A few more gaps here…)


February:  –



May:  – (actually, I have loads of photos from Italy, it’s just I haven’t sorted them out yet!)


(There is actually a photo of me giving my conference presentation somewhere on Facebook, but I couldn’t find it, so this will have to do instead)


August:  –





What I read in 2016

Yes, I’m a month late doing the year-end wrap-up things, but I was way too busy in early January so didn’t have time to do them then.  And I like doing the annual summaries, so even though they’re late, I’m going to post them anyway.

I didn’t do a lot of reading last year (well, actually I did, but it was mostly in the form of academic journal articles, not books), and most of my “reading” was actually listening to audiobooks while walking to and from work.  So it’s the shortest list since I first starting recording my reading.

 Total = 92 books

January (9)

February (9)

March (14)

April (8)

May (8)

June (7)

July (8)

August (6)

  • The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower (library audio book)
  • Daisy’s War by Shayne Parkinson (e-book)
  • Rosemary by Kate Clifford Larson (library audio book)
  • The Sad Truth About Happiness by Anne Giardini
  • The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne (e-book)
  • Toms River by Dan Fagin (library audio book)

September (7)

October (7)

November (6)

December (5)

What I read in 2015 (112 books)
What I read in 2014 (93 books)
What I read in 2013 (129 books)
What I read in 2012 (128 books)
What I read in 2011 (133 books)
What I read in 2010 (137 books)
What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?

2015 in pictures

(Only slightly belatedly)










Don’t be silly, I wasn’t taking photos, I had deadlines!




So the year started and ended with family. And despite feeling like I was too busy to do anything this year, I actually packed in quite a lot. Onwards to 2016…

2015 in review

2015 is hard to summarise.  I learnt a lot, I took on some huge new challenges, but mostly it’s just been incredibly busy, and has raced past in a blur.  So rather than try and write anything meaningful about it, I’ll use my usual trick of recycling bits of blog entries :-)

So, 2015 in first sentences:

January: It’s 2015 here in New Zealand, even if most of the rest of the world is still to catch up, and has dawned a lovely sunny day after yesterday’s rain.

February: I decided to use this weekend to skip ahead a bit in the In Flight quilt-along, in an attempt to have the whole thing finished a few weeks ahead of schedule, and avoid that nasty clash with the start of semester.

March: Ok, so Tartankiwi calls it a cormorant, but I’m a New Zealander – it’s a shag :-)

April: Parsnips has obviously been out hunting today, because when I got home and walked into the kitchen, I felt a lump under my foot.

May: Yeah, I know, it’s been ages since I wrote anything.  Can I use as an excuse the fact that I’ve been really tired, AND that I have a medical excuse for being tired, so it’s not just laziness, honestly it’s not!

June: Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival.

July: Christchurch people (and anyone else who just likes to help preserve cool historic things): If any of you have fond memories of visiting the telescope in the Arts Centre Observatory on a Friday night, you might want to contribute to this fundraiser to help restore the telescope.

August: First term of the semester is over, and I handed my first big assignment in yesterday, so I can pause and relax – well, for a couple of days, at least.

September: Just very very busy.

October: There is a type of tiny quilt that is commonly called a “mug rug”.

November: Hmmm, according to my calendar, the last time I actually took a full weekend off was in August.

December: January and the start of my masters is looming large, so I’m trying to fit as much as I can into the rest of this year, before I have to be head down over the books again.

The internet here is playing up tonight, so I think I might have to leave the year in pictures part until tomorrow, when hopefully it won’t take 10 minutes just to load a page…


It was the boys’ turn to claim their Christmas adventure today, so Dad offered to drive us up to Queenstown.  Queenstown is *the* place to be for New Year’s, so the town was totally packed (yeah, probably should have thought of that before we picked today to go up there…), and we had to queue for about an hour just to get tickets for the gondola.  Then at the top, there was another queue for the chair-lift which takes you even further up the hill to the start of the luge track.  It was another stinking hot day, so I was very glad I’d remembered a hat and sunscreen for a change, with all that waiting round in the hot sun!

I’d bought us a family pass, which got all four of us up the gondola, plus five tickets for the luge (we could have bought a slightly more expensive pass with a lot more tickets, but when they told us at the ticket office that the queue at the top was about 30 minutes, it didn’t seem worth it, given that we’d probably only have time for a couple of goes).  Dad didn’t want to go on the luge himself, so I said I’d go on the luge with the boys for their first run, then they could use the remaining two tickets to try the faster track (they make you go on the slower track your first time down, to make sure you know how to control the carts) on their own.

I gave Dad my camera to hold while the boys and I were on the luge, so of course he took photos:

Chair-lift to the top (despite appearances, you don’t actually scrape your feet along the ground – the chairs are a very long way up, but the angle of the hill from where Dad was standing makes it look low)

Nephew #1 and I “racing” (about 30 seconds after this he passed me, and I didn’t catch up again until the bottom of the hill. Probably because I kept using the brakes round the corners…)

On the fast track (and desperately hoping Brother and SIL don’t see this and notice that he forgot to do up his helmet – I really was looking after them, honestly!)

I think they enjoyed their day :-)

This is why you should never leave your camera with your parent: they take photos of you being silly!

Obligatory beauty shot of the view over Queenstown and Lake Wakitipu.

On the gondola back down again.

By the time they’d had their second go, it was well past lunchtime, so we decided to go back down the hill to Queenstown and try out the famous Ferg Burgers (supposedly the best burgers in NZ).  Of course, being famous means they’re also incredibly popular, so it was back to standing in a queue again – another 30 minutes just to get to the counter to order, and then, because they cook everything to order, 20 minutes while our burgers were prepared.  Nephew #2 got sick of waiting about half way down the queue, and opted to go round the corner to McDonalds, but Nephew #1 and I stuck it out, and the burgers were definitely worth the wait.  Even if it did mean we finally had our lunch at about 3 pm.

New Year’s Eve tonight, but I don’t think we’ll be doing anything special.  Anyway, after all those queues today (there was even a queue to get home: there’d been an accident just before Lake Hayes, and the queue of traffic was backed up nearly all the way to the airport turn-off, so we were crawling along for ages until we got past the accident spot), I think I’d rather just have an early night than go find another crowd to stand in!

Being social

It’s been a very social weekend. Actually, more than just the weekend, because on Friday the CEISMIC team spent the day at the NDF Bar Camp, an “unconference” to discuss digital issues in the cultural heritage sector.  Lots of exciting conversations and ideas, and seriously inspiring.  Tiring though, in that way of an event where you’ve got your brain switched on all day. There were drinks afterwards, of course, during which the fascinating conversations continued, but I only stayed for an hour, because I was meeting a few of the Toastmasters women for dinner.

The dinner was fun – lots of laughs (and interesting food – we were at a Vietnamese restaurant, and ordered a banquet, so we got to try lots of dishes we hadn’t tried before).  Quite a late night though.  When we left the restaurant, we discovered the intersection blocked off with a fire engine and two police cars, and police tape everywhere.  Earlier we’d noticed flashing lights outside, and had seen an ambulance come and go, but this was an hour or two later, and the police were still there.  It was dark, so hard to tell what was going on, but just as we were driving away (everyone was most concerned about me walking home on my own, even though we were only a few blocks from my place, so Ade insisted on giving me a lift) I realised what looked different about the dairy* on the corner – there was a car inside it.  According to The Press this morning, the driver had a “medical event” (I’m guessing that means heart attack?) while driving, and had gone straight over the roundabout and into the dairy.

*translation for foreigners: small convenience store/corner shop, mainly selling milk, bread and lollies**.

**another translation for foreigners: sweets/candy/confectionery

I’d planned to have a quiet day yesterday, seeing as Friday had been so busy, but Mrs Gwilk rang to say they had a new board game they wanted to try out, but it needed a fourth person to play, so did I feel like coming round.  So that’s where I spent the evening.  The game was really fun – it was a strategy game based on the Firefly TV series (which I’ve never actually seen, but knew vaguely what it was about which was enough to understand the game), where you had to run trade and/or smuggling missions across an interstellar society, while managing things like crew and fuel, and avoiding raiders and customs officials (if you were smuggling).  The end of the game was very dramatic, with Gwilk and I racing to get to a particular planet, with whoever got there first winning the game.  Unfortunately an unlucky roll when raiders attacked meant I got there just behind him, but I think second place is still a pretty respectable result :-)

It was another late night though, because the game took nearly three hours, and then, after mini-Gwilk went off to bed, Mrs Gwilk suggested we try another, shorter game (“shorter” being a relative term when it comes to board games), so it was nearly 11 by the time I got home.

Then this afternoon was the bookcrossing meetup.  A lot smaller turn out this time – Rarsberry was at a birthday party, and a couple of the others who normally turn up didn’t show, but we did have a new person, so all was not lost.  It was incredibly busy at the cafe, because the Botanic Gardens were having a special event for Matariki (the Maori New Year celebration), so we were lucky to get a table (well, luck combined with the fact that I spotted some people leaving, so I raced over and bagsed their table – which completely confused the poor person who came to clear away their plates!).  The incredibly long queue to order food wasn’t a problem for a bunch of bookcrossers though – we just took our books so we could read while the queue inched forward :-)

So yeah, fun weekend, but I am now officially all socialled out.  Pity I’ve got to go to work tomorrow and interact with people…