Busy doing nothing

We’ve been back from Alexandra for nearly a week now, and I don’t know where the time went. Ok, the first couple of days went on entertaining Nephew#1, who came back with us. We’ve been promising him for years that when he got old enough he could come for a visit on his own, so he finally got his proper big kid’s holiday. Only three days, but it was a pretty big deal for him!

We had some great adventures with him, too. Dad gave us a lift up to Christchurch, because he had some work to do up here, so we were able to have a nice relaxed trip and stop off at Tekapo for the night to take Nephew#1 up to the observatory at Mount John. He’d got a telescope for Christmas and had been really looking forward to me coming down so we could do some astronomy together, but typically we didn’t get a clear night the whole time we were down there. So I suggested a visit to Mount John where at least we could see the big telescopes (among others they’ve got the biggest telescope in NZ, a 1.8m reflector), and maybe if the weather cleared up get to do some serious stargazing.

The weather forecast had been changing daily, so we tentatively booked onto the night tour, which includes proper stargazing, and we were pretty hopeful when we left Alexandra on Sunday, as the morning had been pretty clear, but by the time we reached Tekapo that afternoon it was obvious that the clouds were moving back in and we wouldn’t get to see much that night. So we decided to cut our losses (and save $50 or so, the difference between the night and daytime tours) and just take a daytime tour so at least Nephew#1 could get a taste of what real astronomy was like.

When we went into the office to change our booking we discovered we were almost too late, because the guide goes home at 4 pm, and it was about 3.30 by then and we’d still have to drive up to the mountain. But the woman in the office (who I’d spoken to by phone a few days before when we booked, when we’d discussed how disappointed Nephew#1 was to have not been able to use his telescope yet, and that this was his consolation prize) rang the guide and asked him to wait for us, so we hopped in the car and raced up to the observatory. The guide not only waited for us, but he gave us a discount because he wouldn’t have time to give us the full tour. But then Nephew#1 impressed the guide so much with how much he already knew (he’s been reading a lot of astronomy books!) and how enthusiastic he was about the subject, that he ended up not cutting the tour short but carried on after 4 and showed us round everything after all. We even got to do a bit of stargazing, to Nephew#1’s delight – we looked through one of the “smaller” telescopes (I think it was only a 50cm) at Alpha Centauri (yes, it was still daylight, but if you have a big enough telescope and know where to point it, it’s perfectly possible to see some of the brightest stars during the day).

The next morning we carried on to Christchurch, and the next adventure: we spent the afternoon at the Antarctic Centre. I thought the entertainment value was a bit limited for what it cost ($55 for an adult!!!), but Nephew#1 loved it. We saw the penguins being fed, and played on the ice slide in the snow and ice room (where Auntie FutureCat suffered a rather nasty bruise on her tailbone as a reminder that she isn’t as flexible as an 8-year old any more!), and experienced a few seconds of an Antarctic storm (they keep the snow and ice room at -8 degrees, and then to simulate the storm turn on big fans that produce 40-odd kph winds, which add (subtract?) another 13 degrees of windchill. They give you big jackets to wear, but it’s still rather bracing!) And the highlight for Nephew#1 (though not so much for me, what with the bumping adding to my bruise and that I ended up feeling motion sick): we had a ride on one of the Hagglund all-terrain vehicles, which took us over a series of stupidly steep hills and rapid descents, and even turned into a boat to float through a little pond.

Dad was staying with friends on the other side of Christchurch, so MrPloppy and I had to very quickly learn some parenting skills that night to get Nephew#1 fed and cleaned and into bed at a reasonable hour (it did help that he was pretty much exhausted after our adventures, so getting him to bed wasn’t a struggle, and while a nutritionist might say that letting him just eat chicken for dinner and not the vegetables isn’t a great idea, we reckoned it wouldn’t kill him for one night :-))

One of the things Nephew#1 had said he wanted to do in Christchurch was buy a watch, because he’d broken his old one. So in the morning we took him to Riccarton to the mall, where he managed to find one that he could just afford with the money he’d saved up. And the shopkeeper even gave him a few dollars off, because he overheard us while I was asking Nephew#1 if he was really sure he wanted to spend all of his holiday money on the watch. So when Nephew#1 went to pay, he handed him back a few dollars, saying he might want to buy himself an icecream. It’s good to know there are some nice people out there still.

Next was the playground in the Botanic Gardens, where I spent a pleasant hour reading my book while Nephew#1 played on the equipment and made some instant friends in the way only a child can. Then lunch at the Arts Centre, a visit to Rutherford’s den to play with the geiger counters, and then the afternoon at the museum before Dad came to pick him up to take him home to Alexandra.

And then MrPloppy and I spent the rest of the week recovering. This being an auntie thing is exhausting! Fun though, and I think Nephew#1 had fun too – when my brother rang me that night to say he’d got home safely, he said he hadn’t stopped talking about our adventures 🙂

Ok, I’m telling all this out of order, because I’ve written all that about what we did after we left Alexandra, and not much about what we did in Alexandra. That’s mostly because we didn’t do a lot. The weather, as I’ve mentioned, wasn’t great, and the main aim of the trip was to spend some time with family, rather than do anything in particular. It was a nice relaxing time, anyway (well, it was for me – I don’t know if MrPloppy found it so enjoyable spending so much time with my family ;-)).

So really not a lot to tell. The highlight was creating another treasure hunt for the kids – pirate themed, with the clues leading to treasure (of the chocolate variety) buried in genuine “X marks the spot” style:

Can you spot the two Xs? (Two Xs because each nephew got his own treasure to dig for).

Lunchtime doubly so

The battery died in my watch the other day, meaning that I discovered once again that I have absolutely no time sense. MrPloppy can always tell you roughly what time it is, even if he hasn’t looked at a clock for hours, but for me it could be any time at all. Which is an advantage when I’m travelling, because it makes it easy to adjust to new time zones, but not so good when I don’t have a watch to consult (and most clocks aren’t much help to me, because of my weird dyslexia-type thingy that means I can’t read analogue clocks (well, I can if I really concentrate, but it’s not easy, so generally by the time I’ve figured it out the reason for needing to know the time has passed)). So I’ve been living in a timeless world for the last few days – very strange. Anyway, I went and got a new battery put in today, so time has been returned to me. All is right with the world 🙂

Latest progress on the Singer:

We’re off down south tomorrow, with no particular plans as to what we’re doing or how long we’ll be away. I may report in sometime, but I suspect that as usual, if I’m doing anything interesting enough to be worth writing about, I won’t have time to write about it…

Here be elephant

I’ve been busy sewing today, making a Christmas present for Niece#1. A few weeks ago Jenny and I went fabric shopping, theoretically to buy material for a dress she wanted to make, but of course I couldn’t resist browsing the pretties myself, which gave me the idea to make Niece#1 a patchwork elephant like the one I made for TheLetterC. And amazingly, I’d not only kept the template I’d drawn for it, but I’d actually put it in a sensible place where I could find it again!

Today seemed like a good sort of day for sewing, so I dug out the fabric scraps I’d chosen, and got to work. My approach to patchwork is pretty rough and ready – I don’t have the patience (or skill) to spend months carefully hand-stitching each piece accurately into place the way you’re supposed to, so my technique just involves cutting out rough squares, sewing them together into strips, then sewing the strips together without bothering to try and match the seams up. Wouldn’t work for a quilt, but for a project like this it comes out ok.

Lots of squares (or squarishes)

Sewn into strips

Strips sewn together

Two elephants and four ears

Finished ears

Ears attached

Ready for stuffing

And the finished elephant:

Isn’t he cute?

Yesterday I got a phone call from otakuu. Not quite out of the blue, because she’d mentioned she was going to be passing through Christchurch sometime, but she hadn’t been sure whether she’d get a chance to meet up, so it was a nice surprise to hear from her. She and her sister were on their way into town to do a bit of shopping, so we arranged to meet in town for coffee. I sent a message round the BCNZ Yahoo group just on the off-chance anyone would see it in time, but obviously nobody did. That’s ok though, because we still had a really nice chat, and added a few more books to the OBCZ shelf (yes, of course we went to The Coffee Club, where else would I arrange to meet visiting bookcrossers?). And I even managed to remember to bring Cat in a Kiwi Con, which I’ve been promising to return to otakuu for about a year now.

Afterwards I popped into Farmers, where they had 30% off their kitchenware, and found a set of silicone bakeware for a really good price. I’ve been wanting to try it out for a while, but all the stuff I’ve seen has been expensive. So I was very pleased with my purchase.

I haven’t actually tried out baking in it yet, but I did make a tortilla for dinner last night in the cake tin, and it worked really well. So I might have to break out the recipe books sometime soon.

To summarise

I saw this on a few peoples’ LJs a while back, and was inspired to copy it. The idea is you post the first couple of lines of the first entry of each month (or at least, the first non-friends-only, non-meme entry), and see what it tells you about the year.

January: 7 am and watching the weather
The worst bit about having been on holiday is that you get yourself into a nice lazy rhythm of late nights and even later mornings, which is always so hard to break when suddenly your holiday is over and it’s Monday morning.

February: I love the smell of vinegar in the afternoon
While we were helping rarsberry shift yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that the plum tree at their old place was fair groaning with fruit, so in a quiet moment lytteltonwitch and I grabbed a bag from the car and stripped all the branches we could reach.

March: A quiet time
As in, I’ve been quiet for quite some time. My life certainly hasn’t. Most of the unquiet has been on the work front. A time of year that’s normally incredibly busy anyway has gone beyond busy to frantic, and my workload just keeps going up. Doesn’t leave a lot of energy at the end of the day for thinking up exciting things to write about.

April: Thick, yellow and wobbly
All of a sudden, everything seems to be turning to custard. For a start, one of our guest speakers is in hospital, and while he seems to be making a good recovery, it was serious enough that I can’t really ring and ask if he thinks he’ll be well enough by the 18th to do his talk.

May: New hobbies
Ok, you knew I wouldn’t be able to resist finding something new to occupy my time now that the convention is over. Actually, I’ve found two new hobbies which both look like being suitable time-sinks.

June: More pretties
I seem to be getting worse and worse at actually updating my diary lately. I blame work. I seem to spend more and more of my day staring at a computer screen, which doesn’t exactly inspire me to stare at a computer screen for fun when I get home (which is saying something for this confirmed geek). Anyway, rather than make some feeble attempt to catch up, here’s some pretty pictures of my latest lace-making efforts.

July: Even more random stuff
I remembered a couple more random things I’d been meaning to blog about, before being distracted by deleting half my entry the other day. For a start, I’d promised to post the official list of books from our fabulous “When Ballycumber went to Dunedin…” memory game we played on our way down to the booksale.

August: It’s never a question of need
A morning that started off frustrating ended quite pleasantly. I’d arranged to meet Jenny for lunch, so as MrPloppy and I had a couple of bits and pieces we wanted to get done in town before that, we decided to try and catch an earlier bus than we usually would. Of course given that, it was pretty much guaranteed that the outlaws would ring and want to spend hours telling us they really had nothing to tell us…

Only one entry for September, and it was friends only.

October: Busy busy busy
(Yeah, when am I not busy?) After a nice quiet weekend, life has reverted to its usual whirl of activity (but it’s ok, it’s in a good way). Last week of term, so work has been the usual madhouse, of course, and it’s turning into quite a social week as well.

November: Curried cats and bird attacks
Sapphy discovered something important tonight: cats and curry shouldn’t mix. Every so often my ESOL student makes a bit extra of whatever they’re having for dinner and gives me some to take home for me and MrPloppy. Tonight’s dish was a rather spicy lamb curry. Really tasty, but with quite a bite.

December: Pretty Sparkles
Note the cat stocking lytteltonwitch sent us from the UK, hanging in pride of place on the fireplace. I keep hinting to MrPloppy that stockings should always contain chocolates by Christmas morning…

Ok, the first thing this exercise told me is that I didn’t post much in 2009. Most months only had a couple of entries. The other thing it reminds me is what a year of highs and lows this has been! The main high was of course the convention – to have been part of the organising committee for such a successful convention is definitely something I’m very proud of. The lows… well, where do I start? It was a tough year. Not the worst I’ve ever had, but certainly up (or down) there.

But I reckon 2010’s going to be a good one.

What I read in 2009

Total = 150 books

January (15)

February (7)

March (16)

April (11)

May (15)

June (12)

July (13)

August (14)

September (12)

October (15)

November (11)

December (9)

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?