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…

Bitten by an Australian

I’ve always suspected being social is a dangerous thing.  I proved it on Tuesday night, when, waving to my neighbour as we always do when I happen to arrive home while she’s in her front yard, I thought I’d actually stop and say hello for a change.  As I was talking to her, I leant on the fence, and felt something pinch my arm.  I thought it was just that one of the palings had moved and pinched me, so I just shifted my position and thought nothing of it.

Half an hour later, I realised my arm was still hurting (yeah, I know, blame my genetic propensity to high pain tolerance – I’m really good at not noticing that something hurts), and had a look at the spot where I’d pinched it.  Which turned out to have a very obvious raised white lump, surrounded by a big red patch, and, when I looked closer, a definite puncture mark in the middle.

We don’t have a lot of poisonous bitey things in New Zealand, and of the ones we do have, two thirds have been (accidentally) imported from Australia.  There’s the native katipo spider, which is very rare and pretty much only found in sand dunes, the Australian redback spider (which is also rare in NZ, and anyway, I knew it wasn’t that, because I was still standing), and, the most likely culprit, the Australian whitetail spider.  Whitetails technically aren’t poisonous, because they can’t seriously harm humans, but their venom does cause a painful reaction in most people, and the photos Google showed me of whitetail bites matched my arm exactly.

The white lump shrank within a couple of hours (the photo below was taken later that night, when it had almost disappeared), but it stayed painful enough to be annoying (i.e. what a normal person would call “very painful”) for the rest of the night, and even now, three days later, it’s still a bit tender to touch (and incredibly itchy!), and the red mark is only just starting to fade.

I now feel totally justified for all the whitetails I have killed over the years whenever they’ve dared to make their way inside my house. And even more justified in avoiding gardening – there could be hundreds of the horrible little things lurking out there just waiting for the chance to bite me.

I’ve been going along to the weekly craft meetups reasonably regularly. I quickly got bored with my knitted dishcloth production line (it halted half way through my third attempt), so instead I pulled out a long-abandoned embroidery project (ok, I just looked back through old blog entries, and I bought it at a craft shop Sherlockfan took me to during a trip to Wellington in 2010!) as a nice easily-portable craft I could work on at the meetups. I’ve made pretty good progress (although some of the stitching is a bit rough – we rotate between several different venues for the meetups, and some of them don’t have the best lighting!):

Ironically, I was working on the spider at this week’s meetup…

The Great Cross-stitch Giveaway, Part 1

Right, I’ve decided my impulse to just give away all those old cross-stitch projects that have been languishing in the bottom of my trunk since I finished them is a good one, so this is the first in an occasional series of giveaway posts.  I’m not sure exactly how this is going to work, and I reserve the right to completely change the rules as I go along, but basically, leave a comment if you’d like to give this project a good home.  If more than one person wants it, I’ll choose who to give it to on some basis yet to be decided – perhaps randomly, or I might pick the comment I like best, or maybe some other criteria.  Like I said, making up the rules as I go along.  As all the projects I’ve got in mind are unframed, they’ll be cheap to post, so I’m happy to send them overseas.  Oh, and one big condition: you have to promise to show me a photo of it once it’s hanging on your wall (or however you decide to display/use it).

Anyway, project number 1:

This one might be of quite specialist appeal. It is of course a depiction of the wizards of Unseen University, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.  I bought the kit for this at the one and only proper con I’ve ever been to, a Discworld Convention held in Liverpool sometime in the late 1990s.  I actually started stitching it while at the con, and finished it off back in London, where I was living at the time.  It did actually live on my wall, unframed (hence the drawing pin marks in the corners), for a while, just because we were living in a dingy flat with little else in the way of decoration, but since then it’s spent many years folded up in the bottom of the trunk.

The picture is about 30 x 35 cm, and the fabric is about 41 x 48 cm, so there’s lots of margin for framing.  It’s badly creased, so will probably need steaming to flatten it out, and it could also do with a good clean, because it’s stained around the edges from drawing pins and sellotape.  And like everything else that comes out of my home, it’s likely to come with a free helping of cat fur.

So yeah, I haven’t made it sound very attractive, have I? 🙂  But if you want to rescue it from its current sad and lonely existence forgotten in a dark chest, leave a comment below.

UPDATE: Success! The cross-stitch has found a new home, with Discoverylover’s dad.

Destination? What destination?

Yetzirah commented the other day that in crafts, “The journey is as important as the destination”.  That is so true.  In fact, for me, it’s all about the journey – the destination often bores me by the time I actually reach it. Which explains why I have a trunk full of “finished” projects, mostly cross-stitch that I can’t be bothered taking to get framed (nor feeling like they’re worth the huge expense of framing).  I’ll have chosen a pattern I really love, worked on it for months (or years, sometimes), and been excited by every new part of the picture that is slowly revealed by my stitches, and gloried over how wonderful it will look when it’s done, and then one day I’m suddenly finished, and at that point I lose all interest.  It’s like I’ve seen the finished product in my mind’s eye for so long that by the time I see it in reality I’m tired of it.  The few pieces of cross-stitch I’ve actually framed and put on my walls I hardly even glance at – I know every little detail of them so well.  So the rest lie neglected and unloved in the trunk.

Ironically, the pieces I’ve given away are the ones I feel the most attachment to.  I love it when I see something I’ve made sitting in someone’s home, or in a photograph (seeing a glimpse of my chicken mat sitting under Yetzirah’s loom the other day gave me a big smile).  It’s like I get the chance to see my destination through someone else’s fresh eyes, and enjoy it vicariously.

Hmm, maybe the solution to my trunk full of unloved finished projects is to start giving them away to good homes, where they can be loved and send occasional postcards home to remind me just how cool they actually are.

Or maybe I just need to start taking on projects that don’t take me years to complete!

One day I’ll figure out that “quick and easy” concept

Christmas presents for my workmates. The theory was I’d make something quick and easy that I could produce multiple of in slightly different designs so I wouldn’t have to think about it too much.  Except that, as always, I forgot just how much time cross-stitch takes (about an hour per letter, in case you were wondering, plus another hour to do the backstitching and cut them out), and that realistically, by the time I’ve got home, cooked dinner, eaten dinner, and done the dishes, I only have an hour or so’s free time per evening, so “a simple little project I can do in the evenings” takes a LOT of evenings to finish.  I *just* managed to get them finished in time.

Next year I’ll buy them chocolates.

The pink butterfly

It took me most of yesterday and long into the night, but I managed to get most of the embroidery done that I wanted to add to the pink butterfly for my second entry to Tartankiwi’s Butterfly Challenge (and, yes, if you’re wondering Tartankiwi, all that pink is a blatant attempt to win your Rascal’s favour ;-)).

It could probably do with a few more flowers, and I’d wanted to add a few French knots to accent the swirls, but I’ve run out of time, so I’m calling it done.

Lessons learnt:

  • I am a lot better at cross-stitch than I am at free-hand embroidery.
  • There is a reason embroidery cotton comes in different varieties, and using the stranded kind that’s meant for cross-stitch doesn’t work all that well for making lazy daisy flowers, even if the colours of stranded cotton you had on hand were so much nicer than the crewel type.
  • See above point.  If you’re planning to add fancy embroidery to a project, you should go and buy the colours you want of the right kind of cotton in advance, so you’re not stuck using the wrong type when it’s late at night and you’re just trying to get it finished.
  • My embroidery skills get a lot worse late at night.
  • Using pink tailor’s chalk to sketch a design on the pink fabric makes it really hard to follow the lines.
  • When you don’t follow your sketched lines, embroidered lines have a tendency to go a bit wonky.
  • Actually, even when you do follow the lines there’s a certain element of wonkiness involved.  See point 1.
  • Very soon I am going to have to bow to the inevitabilities of ageing and invest in bifocals.  I can see perfectly well to sew if I take my glasses off, but then I can’t see the TV (and there’s still enough of the 12-year-old left in me who complains that sewing is BORING if I don’t have a DVD or something to distract me), so I end up trying to peer over the top of my glasses to see exactly where the needle is going – no wonder I woke up with a headache this morning.
The Tartankiwi

Busy doing nothing

Time is rapidly running out on my holidays, but I’m kind of looking forward to going back to work – this year is going to be full of all sorts of interesting challenges which I want to get stuck into.  I could very easily get used to this leisurely lifestyle though 🙂

Not that the last few days have been that leisurely – we decided it was finally time to face down the monster that is cleaning the garage.  As you may know, we don’t own a car.  Our garage then, not needing a vehicular space to be kept clear, has become the all purpose storage space for things that might come in handy one day, broken stuff that might be repairable so it seems silly to throw it out, useful boxes, leftover building material from various projects, furniture I’ve been meaning to Freecycle, stuff the previous owners left behind… you get the idea.  Plus it doubles as a wood shed, and houses the usual tools and stuff of any garage.  Yeah, basically a room-sized junk drawer.

It was getting to the stage where we couldn’t actually find any of the tools, and getting to the woodpile in winter was work for a skilled mountaineer (ok, so maybe not that bad, but it was a bit tricky squeezing past the lawnmower).  So all year I’ve been saying that when we had a few free days we should clean it out.

So having quite a few free days, with no excuses left, we finally tackled the job.  We hired a skip and filled it with everything of the “might come in handy some day”, “don’t even know what this is” and “outright rubbish” categories, restacked the wood pile to limit its gradual spread across the floor, sorted out the Freecyclables ready to post offers, cleaned and organised everything that was left, and we now have a perfectly usable garage.

Yeah, I give it about a month before it’s back to chaos again, but in the meantime I can feel proud of our efforts 🙂

Progress hasn’t been as steady on craft projects, but that’s because it’s been so hot – it’s hovered around 30o most days this month, accompanied by Christchurch’s famous hot and dusty nor’wester.  And hot and sweaty really doesn’t go well with keeping crafty things clean.

But yesterday the weather finally broke and it rained and was nice and cool.  Which coincided nicely with Jenny having a free day, so she came round and we had a sewing circle – or sewing line, really – it’s hard to have a circle of two… and actually it was more of a knitting and embroidery line – she was finishing off a jersey she’s knitting, and I was working on my cross-stitch. But we called it a sewing circle anyway 😉 and it accomplished the same goal: company and conversation while working on crafty things.

So I did make a small amount of progress:


And I have added a bit more to my knitting experiment.  I’ve just been playing with different patterns and using up some of the random odds and ends of wool Jenny gave me, and just picking up stitches off the sides of existing squares to start each new one, so it’s developing very organically*.


*Translation: messily

In bookcrossing news, I got a catch which was definitely a record for me, and may even (according to Gorydetails) be a site-wide record, for longest time between release and catch.  I released Ossian’s Ride in April 2003, and it’s finally been caught almost 10 years later.  Just goes to show you should never give up on a book!

Other, less notable, recent catches:

Currently reading:

  • Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson
  • Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel B Smith (audiobook)

Back by maternal demand

OK, I get the hint Mum – time I posted something.  My only excuse is my usual one: Honours is hard and I have no life.  Yeah, I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but study is definitely taking up a huge proportion of my time, and not leaving a lot left for anything else.

Anyway, the end (for this year anyway) is in sight – I’ve written an almost just about semi final draft of my paper, and if I can catch up with my lecturer on Tuesday to clarify a few last points I should be able to get it finished in the next week or so… and then I can relax a bit and enjoy the summer.

Talking of summer (or at least late spring), a couple of nice summery photos I took in the Botanic Gardens a few weeks ago:



We were sitting in the gardens waiting for the doors to open for a talk we were going to at the museum when this blackbird flew down and landed on the bench we were sitting on. He let me take a few photos before he decided we obviously didn’t have any food to give him, and flew off again.

Ok, so I have had a bit of a life – last month was UC’s Platform Arts Festival, and we managed to get to a few of the events – a couple of talks, a poetry reading, and a couple of film screenings.  Highlight was probably the screening of Buster Keaton’s silent movie The General accompanied by a pianist from the School of Music who’s made a study of the art of silent film accompaniment. He gave a talk beforehand on the technique, then we watched the film, while he played the piano (completely improvised – he didn’t have any music, and said he prefers to just watch the film and play what comes to mind).  It was totally amazing, and added so much to the film, so that you almost forgot it was a silent movie (and not only that, but a silent movie made nearly 90 years ago!).

Lytteltonwitch is back in NZ briefly, so last weekend she, Otakuu and I went out to Hororata for the day.  We’d intended a bookcrossing expedition, but it was raining so heavily we ended up just spending several hours sitting in the cafe (which is under new management so no longer has an OBCZ shelf 🙁 ) and talking.  So not many books got released, but it was a fun day, and good to catch up with them both (even though Otakuu is living in Christchurch now, she works nights so we don’t get to see a lot of her).

I have managed to make a little progress on my latest cross-stitch (actually, I’ve just looked back, and it’s been about 4 months since I last posted a progress report, so in that time I’ve actually made quite a bit of progress):


Last night we went into town for the Luxcity event, which opened up part of the Red Zone for temporary art installations based around the idea of light.  Most of the art was pretty uninspired (though we left before it was properly dark, so maybe they got more impressive later on in the night), but it was great to be able to get back into the city for a night, and there were a lot of people taking advantage of the opportunity, and a great atmosphere.

The CBD is such an alien landscape these days, with so much empty land where buildings once stood, and weird little islands of buildings left behind:


Opposite Alice’s there’s only one shop left standing. The picture framers I used to use for getting my embroidery framed used to stand next door to this shop. Don’t think I’ll be getting any work done there for a while.


The Farmers car park next to the library is strangely beautiful in its half-deconstructed state.


A different view of the cathedral (I took this through the security fencing from Gloucester Street, still the closest you can get to the Square).


When we arrived, some of the artworks were still being installed. This one was being put up on the site where the Press building once stood.


A lot of the art seemed to involve suspending things from cranes – nice to see them being put to a use other than knocking down buildings, even if the artwork itself isn’t particularly exciting.


Weeds growing on the library building…


… and on the footpath in front. It’s still very much an abandoned city.


The sunset completely outdid anything the artists could create with light 🙂

There were food stalls and performance spaces among the artworks, with musicians and acrobats.  In one of the spaces, someone had covered the fences with “provocative” messages (actually, most of them were pretty bland stuff about reclaiming the city), and provided pens and cardboard for people to add their own (I love whoever wrote “Potato!” as their mesage :-))


One of the signs had a starter of “I love…” and someone had written underneath “Minecraft”, so MrPloppy added a little picture of a creeper.  When we came past the spot again later in the night, the creeper theme had spread, and there were pictures of creepers and comments about Minecraft all over the signs…


Talking about Minecraft, MrPloppy managed to get it running over our network so we can play multiplayer worlds.  We had to abandon the first world we created though, because a weird glitch in the world kept spawning cows, to the point there were so many of them that whenever you went near the area the game would crash because the graphics engine couldn’t keep up.  It looked really funny though – thousands of cows surrounding a hole in the ground, with more being produced all the time (sometimes flying into the air as they were ejected from the glitchy block).


So that’s a rough update on what I’ve been up to when I’m not studying or working.  Promise I’ll be better at posting over the summer… possibly….


Yesterday was not the best birthday ever.  For a start, deadlines and panics meant I had to go to work, and it was a frustrating day with all sorts of technical problems putting us even further behind (though on the plus side, one of the analysts did go out and get pastries for afternoon tea as a birthday treat for me, which was sweet of him).  And I wasn’t feeling all that birthday-ish anyway – what with post-nuclear family meltdowns, and a spot of rockiness on the home front this week, there’s been a definite deep dark pit of despair vibe in the air recently.

Oh, and to totally top off the day, there was an earthquake yesterday – just a 4.0, which to us toughened Cantabrians hardly rates a mention these days, except that I was sitting on the toilet at the time!  And there really is nothing more disconcerting than feeling that rumble and wondering whether this will be a big one, and if so, are you going to be able to get your pants up in time?

But MrPloppy did his best to get me in a happy birthday sort of mood, with some really thoughtful and fantastic presents (highlight is the 150th anniversary edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which is a gorgeous book, combining the original text with contemporary and modern illustrations of various species he mentions, and sidebars with biographical details and extracts from his other writing – weighs a tonne though, so I don’t think I’ll be reading it in bed…), and an attempt at a birthday cake (except the never-fail recipe he used somehow failed, and it didn’t rise properly – but I did appreciate the thought, if not so much the cake).  So it wasn’t all bad, really.

Otherwise, life has just been full of work and study. I did force myself to take a break last weekend and do something fun instead of hitting the books yet again, and spent a few hours pleasantly ensconced in my long-neglected embroidery project:

Until of course I ended up with a kitten on my lap and had to stop and hide the dangling thread temptations.

Talking of kittens, I should probably post some pictures (more difficult than it sounds with Parsnips, who is such a bundle of energy and craziness that most of the photos I’ve attempted just show a blur).

They alternate their time between destroying the house and decimating Christchurch’s weta population (seriously – I think they bring in at least one a day at the moment, and chase it round the house until the poor thing has lost all its legs, at which point they get bored and leave it for us to find… I’m just glad we only get the little ones down here, not the giants!)

Kitten poo and mad people


As usual when life gets busy, I get worse at journalling.  The main thing that’s been taking up my time (apart from work), is studying.  I knew the Honours year is a hard one, but I didn’t know it would be HARD.  We’re only three weeks into term, and I’m already finding it a struggle to keep up with all the reading that’s needed… not to mention the thinking.  It’s great fun though, and I’m absolutely loving the challenge.  Just don’t expect me to have a life outside of study for the next four years….

Work is another challenge, but thankfully another enjoyable one.  I’ve had a kind of promotion (it’s complicated), the end result of which is I’m involved in a really exciting long-term project, which (if all goes well) could give me even bigger and better opportunities further down the track.  It means I’m a lot busier than I was, though, and I’ve got a lot more responsibilities to juggle.

Oh well, at least I never get bored 🙂

In kitten news, they’re just as cute and just as infuriating as always. Just when we thought we had them litter-box trained, Parsnips has decided the carpet beside the front door is a much better place to poo. So we spend a lot of time cleaning the carpet and trying to find some sort of smell that will discourage her – so far lemons and the fancy spray from the pet shop have failed. Any suggestions gratefully accepted!

Anyway, pictures of the cute:

And in embroidery news, I’ve made a little bit of progress:

Can you tell what it is yet? 🙂

All of a sudden it’s just a few weeks until our big Ireland trip. This time three weeks from now I’ll be somewhere over Europe, descending towards Heathrow (having already been travelling for nearly 40 hours, and still with another 6 hour bus trip ahead of me to get to the Outlaws’ place – whose stupid idea was it to do the whole thing non-stop???)

I’m almost completely organised – my to-do list still has a few wee jobs on it (like find my NZ/UK converter plug so I can charge my phone), and I don’t actually have a flight home from Brisbane yet (the airline cut the flight I was originally booked on, and the alternative goes via Auckland, so I’m considering staying the night in Brisbane so I can get the direct flight to Christchurch in the morning), but otherwise it’s all coming together nicely.

Actually, speaking of Australia, I should put something on BCAUS to at least organise a meetup in Sydney on my way over.  Organising a Brisbane meetup will have to wait until I know how long I’m there.

In totally weird news, a certain local Bookcrosser has been masquerading as a new member and posting anonymous comments on an old LJ entry.  It was pretty obvious who it was from the start, but I played along to see where she’d take it.  Not very far, as it turned out – she lasted three comments before she started insulting us.  That was amusing enough, but then she followed up by sending me a friends request!  As the Tui ads would say, Yeah, right.  No idea what planet she’s on…