So it’s a new year

Well, that whole return to blogging didn’t last long last year, did it? And to be honest, this one probably won’t either. It’s mostly because vlogging has taken over a lot of the role blogging used to play for me, but also just that usual loop of it’s been so long since I blogged anything, it’ll take me forever to catch up, so it’s easier to just set it aside for a bit longer. And then suddenly it’s 2021.

So I’m not going to try and properly catch things up (other than lots of photos of craft projects, mainly just so I’ve got something to link to for my annual round-up of what I made last year… which is a bit redundant, because it means this post and the round-up post will almost be identical…) Life continues in this weird what passes for normal (as long as you don’t look beyond the borders) state here in Aotearoa. We’re (except in the border isolation hotels) Covid free, and life has sort of returned to normal, except for not being able to leave the country, and always being a bit on edge waiting for the next community outbreak to shut things down again, and anything that needs to be imported being horrifically expensive or in short supply (that part feels like being back in the Muldoon years!). But otherwise, it’s easy to forget that the pandemic rages on everywhere else.

The being on edge thing has kept me in Christchurch for the Christmas break – I’d thought about going down to Alexandra, but knowing how stupid people can get around Christmas and New Years, and the inevitable huge parties, I was a bit worried that if there was going to be another outbreak, it’d be during the holiday period, and very likely somewhere like Queenstown. And much as I love Alex, the thought of being stuck down there if we went back into lockdown wasn’t tempting – especially if I’d end up working from home for months again, with the terrible internet down there! So I’ve stayed at home and had a very quiet Christmas – which has had the advantage of having plenty of time to get on with some craft projects (and some video projects – for once I’ve actually got a bit of a buffer of scheduled videos, so I don’t have to be scrambling to edit a video every week!)

And talking of craft projects, here’s lots of photos, in no particular order:

The project I’m most proud of is Birb, the wall-hanging I made for my niece. It’s a portrait of her pet cockatiel, and I was working on it off and on since sometime in the winter. It was a bit of a last-minute rush to get the binding sewn off so I could post it down to her for Christmas.

I based the pattern (very loosely) on a quilt I saw online somewhere that had a variety of different birds in a similar style, though I ended up changing a lot of the details as I went along.

I made a pieced back for it, because I had a few half-square triangles left over, so I decided it would be fun to try and incorporate them into the back. Even though when it gets hung on the wall nobody will ever see those details, I really like the idea that the back is interesting too – it’s like including a little easter egg ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m really proud of the quilting – it feels like it nicely shows off how far my skills have progressed over the last few years ๐Ÿ™‚ And I had a lot of fun coming up with quilting designs for each component.

It’s also the biggest quilt I’ve completed this year (I have made a couple of quilt tops that are bigger, but they’re still sitting on the pile waiting for inspiration to strike to get them actually quilted). Everything else has been mini-quilts – probably because they seem more manageable at the moment.

One you might have already seen if you follow Yetzirah’s blog is the mini-quilt I made to celebrate reaching 100 subscribers on my YouTube channel. I had a little competition where viewers could suggest a quilt theme, and I’d draw one out and make it for them. Yetzirah’s name came out of the hat, with the suggestion of hearts and batiks. She’d just been converting her chicken coop into a writing retreat room, so I had that space in mind when I made it. A gorgeous NZ-made batik ended up being the central fabric, so I called it Tลซฤซ in the Henhouse.

It’s another one where I incorporated a spare block into the back, this time as a label:

A mini-quilt that didn’t make it onto my YouTube channel was the one I very quickly made as a wedding present for two friends who’d converted their civil union into a marriage and threw a party to celebrate. They’re both major Star Trek and LEGO geeks, so coming up with a design to suit wasn’t hard ๐Ÿ™‚

I had to Google the shape of the communicator badges on their shirts – I’m definitely not a Trekkie ๐Ÿ™‚

And one that has already featured on my channel is a little Christmas tree that came from a rainy, I feel like starting something new, sort of day just before Christmas. I had a charm pack I didn’t know what I wanted to do with, so I just started playing, and this was the result:

Plus, I finally got round to finishing off the last of the Christmas mini-quilts I started years ago (I just checked – it was in 2017! That was when I finally learnt the lesson that making anything in bulk is boring, and I’ll give up half way through, so I really shouldn’t attempt it, no matter how much it seems like a cool idea to make loads of something so I can give one to everyone I know).

There were also lots of quilted things that weren’t actually quilts. Like the cushions I made as a housewarming gift for another friend. I half-jokingly said I should make her some cushions, and asked her what colours she liked. When she replied “rainbows”, I immediately had the (slightly over-ambitious) thought that doing something with a bargello technique would be fun, despite the fact I’d never actually tried bargello before (when has that ever stopped me?). I used bargello for one of the cushions, and then used the scraps from it to make a complementary design for the other one.

I also made a couple of hot water bottle covers, one for myself, and one for my niece (yes, I do make a lot of things for her – she’s totally spoilt ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

This is my one,which started off as a mistake – I cut some of the pieces wrong for one of the blocks in the Sugaridoo quilt, so decided to use them for an improvised block, which ended up being a hot water bottle
And this is my niece’s – I basically just wanted an excuse to use that forest fabric ๐Ÿ™‚

This very small mat was made at the request of Mum, who wanted something to put under her kettle to reduce the noise when it boils. Her request was for something very simple, and red to match her kitchen. But of course, simple is boring, so I ended up experimenting with an octagonal log cabin (with limited success – it’s really hard to keep the angles on an octagon accurate as you add to it!)

I really love this fabric I put on the back – actually, I think I like the back more than the front!

Mum loved it so much it didn’t actually end up doing the job it was intended for – instead of putting it under the kettle, where it would be hidden, she’s got it out on display, under the fruit bowl ๐Ÿ™‚

Another request from Mum was for a cat bed for Raji. He’s been overflowing his existing one, so she wanted one slightly bigger. So I bought some fake fur and adapted a dog bed pattern:

It ended up very puffy in the centre – hopefully Raji is heavy enough to sink into it, and not float on top ๐Ÿ™‚

I only finished it a couple of days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to get it posted down to her yet – I’ll do that once the post office opens on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to finding out whether it gets Raji’s seal of approval (Parsnips sniffed at it once, and hasn’t gone near it since).

In other non-quilting craft projects, I also made another big pile of bunting for the union, this time in Pasifika fabrics:

This is some of it hanging in the corridor outside my office – we had a competition in our building to decorate the hallways for Christmas, and our floor (which we share with the Pacific Research Centre) decided to go for a “Pacific Wonderland” theme.

And of course, like everyone with access to a sewing machine, made many, many, many masks for friends and family (and a few for myself).

I had to make at least one with cats on it ๐Ÿ™‚

And finally for the completed projects, I made noticeboards for my craft room/study, so I can finally stop trying to stick pins directly into the walls:

And we’re back (sort of)

If I actually posted here more often, you’d have noticed that everything looked a bit weird around here for a week or two, because the WordPress theme I was using broke, so the site reverted to a default, and everything went ugly. But thankfully our fearless leader Steve was able to update the theme (which, apparently, I’m the only person left using), so all is back to normal, and my carefully crafted (i.e. thrown together in a lunch hour) banner and background are back in their rightful places again.

I’m gaining even more appreciation for the work Steve does on this site, because I’ve been working on some of our WP sites for work, which has involved me dipping my toes into php for the first time ever. It’s a tricky language to get your head around, but I’ve managed to successfully tweak a couple of things, so I’m feeling very proud of myself.


In more relevant news, so there’s this pandemic thing. And the whole country has been in lockdown for the last 4 weeks (I’ve actually been in lockdown a few more days than that, because diabetes puts me in a high-risk category, so I went into self-isolation as soon as we hit Level 2 (explanation of our alert levels, for the non-NZers)). Luckily, my work can pretty much be done from home. Well, in theory at least – the reality has been that I’ve found it incredibly hard to focus working at home. I’m taking comfort from the TEU’s frequent reminders that this is not working from home, it’s working at home during a crisis, so a reduction in productivity is only to be expected. Also, I’ve discovered that if I leave the house every morning and walk around the block, I can somehow convince my brain that I’ve “gone to work”, and get myself more into work mode than if I just go straight from the kitchen to the study. But complaints aside, I’m so thankful to have the kind of work that I can keep doing (and being paid for!) even during lockdown, yet still be safeguarding my health. I’m also incredibly thankful to be living in New Zealand, where our government acted so quickly and effectively to contain the spread of the virus.

It’s turned out to be perfect timing for having Nephew and NOL living here, too! They’ve been wonderful about doing essential grocery and pharmacy shopping for me, so that I don’t have to expose myself to risk. We decided to keep to our own “bubbles”, seeing as they’re having a bit more contact with the world than I am, so we’ve got a system of leaving things on the doorstep for each other (including their washing, which they leave on the doorstep so I can throw it in the washing machine for them, then I leave it out by the line for them to hang up, so they don’t have to come into the house). Being students (especially students whose classes are now all online), they’ve reverted to a mostly nocturnal existence, but we do still see each other to wave to or chat at a safe distance from time to time. Otherwise, most of our conversations are via Discord (though that was the case before COVID-19 too – this is a household of geeks ๐Ÿ™‚ )

For a brief time, official advice was to wash fruit and vegetables in soapy water then rinse. Thankfully, that advice has now reverted back to just clean them before use as you normally would, because do you know how hard it is to rinse soap suds out of broccoli??? I was still amused enough by the advice to take this photo, though ๐Ÿ™‚

My creativity has also suffered during lockdown. You’d think the fact that I spend all day sitting in my study (which doubles as – or perhaps primarily is – my sewing room) would mean I’d be stealing every free minute in my day to work on quilts. But actually, other than trying to keep up with the two quiltalongs, I’ve done very little. Sitting in front of Netflix or YouTube seems to be the most my brain is capable at the moment. But hopefully, now that I’m starting to get into more of a rhythm with work, I can also find the mental space to be creative.

Working on the Sugaridoo quiltalong has been quite a creative process though – I’ve been having fun playing with the colours and incorporating a scrappy look to the rows

One very minor way I’ve been creative is quick paintings for my window. This was inspired by the Weโ€™re Not Scared NZ Bear Hunt which has people putting teddy bears (and all sorts of other soft toys) in their windows for kids to search for while they’re out walking (which is allowed for the purpose of exercise, as long as you stay in your local area). I didn’t have a teddy bear, so I drew one.

And then at Easter, the PM suggested we put pictures of Easter Eggs in our windows as a substitute Easter Egg hunt, so I added a couple of eggs. My window is slowly filling up… (and with the bonus of it stops the glare from the afternoon sun!)

Back before the lockdown, I did some real art! One of the events I went to for Pride Week was a life-drawing class. I’ve never tried life drawing before (well, unless you count some very quick sketches of people in the park from a distance), and I haven’t really done any proper drawing in many many many years, so it was a bit intimidating, and my first few sketches of the early poses were proof of just how rusty I was. But I was reasonably pleased with my last two attempts – her hands and face still proved beyond my drawing skills, but I thought the rest was not bad considering how out of practice I am!

The other cool creative thing I went to at Pride was a comics workshop run by Sam Orchard of Roostertails fame (and also friend of Alkalinekiwi). The workshop was a lot of fun, and I got to meet Sam properly (I had previously met him very briefly at NDF), which was cool. My resulting comic is not the most artistically accomplished (understatement of the week), but at least I enjoyed the creative process ๐Ÿ™‚

There were a few other events I got to for Pride, but unfortunately, a lot of it got cancelled as the first cases of COVID-19 started to emerge in NZ, and restrictions started to be put in place.

And it wasn’t just Pride that was being cancelled – last weekend’s Bookcrossing Convention on the Gold Coast of course had to be cancelled (though we did have a Zoom call with as many of the people who would have been at the convention as possible – that was really fun, and so lovely to see all the friends I would have caught up with at the convention), plus Worldcon, which I was going to go to in July, has been turned into a virtual convention, so that’s another trip cancelled. On the plus side, no travel this year means the money I would have spent on those trips I’ve been able to instead spend on upgrading my computer – my nephew and I have spent the last couple of weeks researching all the latest technology and bought all the parts, so our project for this weekend is going to be putting all the bits together into the most epic computer ever (well, epic within budget, anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ )


In other pre-lockdown, wow-it’s-a-long-time-since-I-wrote-a-blog-post creative news, I finished the ‘Garden City’ table runner to go with the placemat I’d made:

The binding technique did work out a bit better than with the placemat, but it’s not my favourite method though – think I’ll go back to traditional binding.

I also managed to finish the two chickens for my niece just in time for the last time I saw her, when the family were up to do some work on the caravan not long before the lockdown.

Niece had found some big beads to use for its eyes, which turned out wonderfully derpy ๐Ÿ™‚
This one just got pins for its eyes, because I didn’t have enough beads

And that’s about it for an update on life in the FutureCat bubble. I suspect life is going to carry on like this for quite some time, because even as some restrictions are being lifted, my high-risk category means I’ll still be staying self-isolated until the risk is much lower (or there’s a vaccine). But that’s ok, I’m kind of getting used to the solitary life. It’s a bit different to the social whirl my life has been for the past few years, but I’m still enough of an introvert at heart that I can cope ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t wait for the libraries to reopen, though!

New neighbours

It’s been all change here over the last few weeks, with Nephew #1 and NOL moving up to Christchurch and into my backyard. There’s been a lot of coming and going of both sets of parents to get them settled in, and to do some much-needed work to clear trees and make the back of the garden habitable. There’s still a bit to be done, but my new neighbours are in residence now, and our arrangement is so far working well – we’re settling into a nice balance of being neighbourly without being too intrusive into each others’ lives.

Still a bit of a shock though to look out my kitchen window and remember there’s a giant caravan out there!

Because of the steady stream of visitors and other disruptions, I haven’t managed to get a lot of craft projects done (or video editing – my backlog of half-edited videos is getting huge again, and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to post anything. Good thing I’m not planning on being a professional YouTuber, because I’m doing everything wrong if I want to grow my subscribers!).

I have kept up with my various quiltalongs though. The Sugaridoo one is the one I’m enjoying most – I really love how the latest row turned out:

All the different rows are slightly different lengths at the moment, but that’ll all be sorted out in the final construction. And we’re not doing the rows in order, so that’s not the order they’ll be in in the finished quilt, which is why the colour combination looks a bit odd at the moment. If I’ve planned my colours correctly, they should make a lot more sense once its finished ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve developed a small obsession with making (or at least, starting to make – I’ve got three under construction, and none finished (yeah, doesn’t sound like me, I know ๐Ÿ˜‰ )) table runners at the moment. They’re a nice way of trying out ideas without committing to a full quilt. Of course, it means I’m going to have a whole collection of table runners and nothing to do with them… I’m obviously going to have to throw a lot of dinner parties or something!

I did manage to finish a small placemat with the leftovers of one of the table runners (it was also a bit of a test for the binding technique I was trying out. It didn’t quite work out, but I did manage to figure out what went wrong, so the table runner version should be better). Nephew reckons it looks like a map of central Christchurch, with its mixture of grey and green squares.

What also might look like an obsession is chicken pincushions, seeing as I’ve made two more, and have plans for a further two. But really it’s just because I wanted three pincushions, so I could have one in each place I normally need one – one by my cutting mat, one by my sewing machine, and one to sit in the lounge where I normally do any handsewing of bindings etc. And the chicken pattern is quick and easy to make, and looks cute. But then when Niece was up the other day, she saw my chickens and fell in love with them, so I let her pick out some fabrics and promised I’d make her a couple. So that’s on my sewing to-do list too.

I just realised I put both their beaks on upside down. Oh well…

I’m never going to get caught up, am I?

So my sudden burst of trying to catch up didn’t last long. December got busy, not only with the usual round of Christmas and end-of-year social stuff, and a big project at work, but I also bought an extension to my season ticket at Little Andromeda (a really cool “pop-up” alternative theatre that opened in Christchurch in October), which I got with the intention of only seeing a few shows, but they kept adding more cool shows to the line-up, so I ended up again being out almost every night at one thing or another. (And they’ve managed to add another season February-April, which I’ve again bought a season ticket to, so yeah, expect me to disappear again very soon).

I spent Christmas and New Years down in Alexandra, mostly just spending time with mum (who hasn’t been well), and doing as little as possible after such a hectic few months. I did film a few videos while I was down there (making trifle, Christmas lights, and revisiting childhood homes), but otherwise just enjoyed having time to do nothing.

And I did manage to do one creative thing: my nephew’s girlfriend (I need to find a better way of describing her for my blog, seeing as she’ll be living in my backyard soon – Niece-Out-Law? NOL?) gave me some Dungeons and Dragons figurines for Christmas, and my nephew gave me paints for them, so I spent a couple of days trying to paint a couple of them. My eyes (or my patience) are definitely not good enough to paint fine details on tiny figures, but the overall effect isn’t too bad (if you stand back a bit and squint – in extreme closeup like this they don’t look so impressive!)

My plan was to come back from Alexandra and use my final week of my holidays to do lots of blogging and video editing, and crafty stuff, and generally catch up with all the things I didn’t have time to get done last year… and instead I got a cold, so hardly achieved anything at all. I managed a few little projects – catching up with a couple of “block of the month” style quilts I was a bit behind on (the Cosmos Mystery Quilt, which was my birthday present to myself, and which I’ve been filming shorts videos of each month and the Sugaridoo Quiltalong, which I decided not to film, because I didn’t want to step on the toes of the creator, who is also a (much bigger than me) YouTuber, and because sometimes it’s fun to just play with fabric without having to document it!), and finishing a video not-quite-a-tutorial of the Rainbow Aroha quilt I made last year for a union colleague.

The first two rows of the Sugaridoo Quiltalong.
And the fabrics I’ve set aside for the rest of the rows of the quiltalong…
“Rainbow Aroha”

Oh, and after getting frustrated with the falling-apart pincushion I’d been using, and seeing a very cute chicken-shaped* pincushion somewhere online (I really should have made a note where I saw it…), I made myself one:

It turned out so well I’m considering making myself a couple more, so I can have pincushions in all the places I need one around my sewing room (and the rest of the house…)

* For a very loose definition of “chicken-shaped”


Returning to my previous attempt to catch up on some of the other stuff I did last year:

Another small (though it took forever to design and execute) craft project was making myself a bag to carry all my diabetes gear. Everywhere I go, I have to take insulin, the various components of my blood testing kit, emergency snacks in case my blood sugar starts dropping, emergency jellybeans in base my blood sugar goes really low and I start going into hypoglycaemia (the dreaded “hypo”), even more emergency glucagen injection kit in case I get so hypo that I pass out (which, touch wood, has never happened to me, but it’s always a possibility, so I have to carry the kit (and hope that someone recognises what’s going on in time to give me the injection)), notebooks so I can work out the carbs in whatever I’m eating and record what my sugar levels are doing… it’s a lot of stuff. So I decided to make a custom bag that would hold everything I need. And of course I decided to make it as cheerful looking as I possibly could, because if you have to carry around vast quantities of medical supplies, at least they should be pretty and make you smile ๐Ÿ™‚

Front of the bag. I got this fabric in a grab-bag of scraps, so I only just had enough to cover the front of the bag with it, but I loved it so much I had to use it.
And the not-quite-matching back of the bag, made from another scrap piece of fabric.
Inside, with lots of handy pockets and elastic to hold the various bits and pieces. And cats, because everything is better with a few cats ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s still a bit bulky, but it was as compact as I could manage to get it while still having room for everything I need to carry. And it definitely achieves the aim of giving me something pretty to look at while I’m stabbing myself with all the various needles and lancets that are such a fun part of being diabetic.


Another achievement for last year was that I finally managed to finish the rag rug I’d been working on. It took forever (and a *lot* of old clothes cut up for rags), but I finally finished it, and was really pleased with how it turned out:

It now lives in my kitchen, and totally achieves what I wanted – having somewhere warm (and soft) to stand while I do the dishes. Plus brightening up the ugly old lino on the floor. And so far, Parsnips has only managed to pull out one of the pieces of wool (which I resecured, and she hasn’t shown any signs of being tempted to try and pull more out, thankfully).


The university finally appointed a Rainbow Advisor last year, so that our rainbow students get the support they need. In my Rainbow Te Kahukura role for the union, I’ve been working alongside them on a few projects, which has been exciting. One of the big things was Diversity Week (which was actually several weeks), a festival highlighting the diversity at the university. Between us we organised several Rainbow events, including a union-led barbeque for rainbow staff and postgraduates, a film screening, an exhibition, and a stall at the Diversity Market – an evening of cultural displays and food.

For our stall, we had cupcakes, which “customers” (actually, thanks to funding from the university, we gave the cupcakes away for free) could decorate with icing and sprinkles (the word “fabulous” was thrown around quite a bit in the planning ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

While we were setting up, we decided to decorate a few cupcakes ourselves, to provide inspiration. So I decided to see if I could create some of the various pride flags:

From top to bottom:
– Pansexual pride (with extra glitter, because why not)
– Transgender pride
– LGBTQIA+ Rainbow pride (also with extra glitter, see above)

That started everyone else (we had several students from QCanterbury, the student LGBTQIA+ club, helping out on the stall) coming up with ways of depicting the other pride flags (given the limited range of icing and sprinkle colours we had, and the lack of proper piping bags), and we ended up with a whole collection (and a very messy table!):

From top to bottom:
Row 1: Genderqueer pride
Row 2: Intersex pride, Nonbinary pride
Row 3: Transgender pride, Bisexual pride, LGBTQIA+ pride
Row 4: Pansexual pride, Asexual pride

The College of Arts also gave us some funding for decorations for the various events, so Pieta (who’s on the College’s diversity working group with me) and I decided the best use of the funding would be to buy fabric to make as much rainbow bunting as we possibly could. Which turned out to be quite a lot:

The bunting got a lot of use, decorating all sorts of different events during Diversity Week.

These posters are from the amazing Out Loud Aotearoa project which (among other things) collected stories from Rainbow people navigating New Zealand’s mental health system.

And with the last bit of leftover fabric, I made a quick table runner which we used at the union barbeque:

I forgot to get a photo of it at the barbeque, so here’s one of it on my table before I took it into work

Finally, a few more photos of little things I made (or finished making) last year, which I don’t think I’ve posted yet:

I was up in Wellington for NDF in November, which happened to coincide with Discoverylover’s birthday, so she invited me along to her party. So I quickly threw together a little quilted bookmark as a wee present for her:

Remember those Christmas mini-quilts I started a couple of years ago with the intention of giving to all sorts of people, but ran out of time to finish? I actually managed to get a few more of them done! One of them went in my Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange parcel, and another went into a Secret Santa gift exchange at work. If I ever get the rest of them done, I reckon I’ll be all set for Secret Santa gifts for the next few years ๐Ÿ™‚

One Secret Santa I made a special effort for, though. I got invited to the Linguistics department’s Christmas party, and the name I drew for the Secret Santa was actually the person who’d marked my thesis. So I was trying to think of something really cool to give her. Inspiration struck when I was listening to a Linguistics podcast (yeah, I’m a geek), and they were talking about a classic linguistics experiment, which uses an invented word “wug” to describe a little drawing of a creature (and shows that children are linguistically creative, because they can apply appropriate grammatical rules to a totally novel word).

One of the presenters mentioned that that you can’t really use the word “wug” in experiments like this any more, because it’s become a bit of a linguistics meme, and that she even had a coffee mug with a picture of a wug on it – a “wug mug”

That made me think about the other possibilities for decorative wugs, and I realised the ultimate would be a “wug mug rug”. So I made one for my thesis examiner:

Yes, it’s a joke that only someone who’s both a linguist and a quilter would get, but it amused me. And the recipient loved it!

Right, that’s as caught up as I’m ever going to get, I reckon. On to 2020…

Testing, testing… is this thing on?

Yeah, so it’s been a while. But it seems that improvements have quietly been taking place with the DD site behind the scenes, and things that were broken are perhaps unbroken, and I’ve been prompted to actually write a blog post for the first time in forever.

Once again, I don’t even know where to start with getting caught up, so here’s just a random selection of news:

  • My surgery was successful, and I totally love my new improved body. There’s still a bit of swelling and lumpy scar tissue that’s slowly breaking down (and it’ll probably be a couple of years before the scars start to fade a bit), but I’m really happy. Totally worth it! (There are (of course) several videos if you want to see all the gory details: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQCyCJrez23-1jrxigUGYKZyG0k8GZoCQ)
  • This weekend marks a year since I was diagnosed with diabetes. There’s been a few ups and downs (the downs mostly being around a bit of food anxiety I developed, thanks largely to the (I now know wrong) dietary advice I was given right at the start when everyone assumed it must be Type 2. I still have the odd moment of anxiety about what I “should” be eating, but I’m slowly learning to relax and believe my dietician when she says I really can eat anything, as long as I balance my insulin appropriately.
  • At work I’m now officially the Lab’s manager (as opposed to the sort-of acting manager I’d been for the last couple of years). I’m very much finding my feet still with the new role – it’s got a lot of those kind of challenges you’re supposed to describe as “exciting” but are more accurately called “stressful”, but it also has a lot of good bits.
  • The Lab was moved into a new (well, newly refurbished, anyway – it’s been closed for a year for the last of the earthquake repairs) building last month. And in the juggling of people and resources that moving always entails, it suddenly turned out that there was an office going spare. So I now, for the first time in my entire working career, have my own office! It’s taking a bit of getting used to, after having worked in open plan and shared offices for so long (it’s a bit lonely sometimes!), but it’s also cool having a space that’s all my own – I’m looking forward to decorating it!
  • At home, I’m going to have slightly less space of my own next year, because my eldest nephew and his girlfriend are moving into a caravan in my back yard. They’re both coming up to Christchurch for tertiary study (Nephew at the university, and Niece-Out-Law at the polytech), and all the accommodation options they were looking at were horrendously expensive, so Nephew came up with a plan: for a fraction of what a year’s rent would cost, they can buy a nice, completely self-contained caravan (for my American readers, think something more like a trailer), and he asked me if he could park it in the back of my section. In return, they’re going to tidy up the back of the section for me, and pave the area where the caravan will be parked (so when they’re gone next summer I’ll have a nice outdoor area where I can set up an outdoor table and chairs), and generally help out with things like gardening and supermarket runs. They came up for a visit a few weeks ago so we could talk it all through, and I think it’s going to work out really well. Because they’ll be self-contained, they won’t need to come into the house (except for laundry, which we’ve agreed they’ll do during the week while I’m at work), so it won’t be any disruption to my life, and I’ll have all the benefits of having family nearby (like feeding the cat when I’m away!). And I get to help my nephew in a really practical way to take his first steps along his academic journey. So win-win all round ๐Ÿ™‚

(There’s lots of craft projects to catch you up on too, but that involves sorting through photos, so they’ll have to wait for another time.)

So welcome back! And hopefully I’ll do a slightly better job of sticking round this time…

Catching up on (some of) the news

You know how you get behind on something, and the further you get behind the bigger it gets, so it seems too impossibly huge to tackle, so you put it off even longer, and it just keeps getting bigger… yeah, that pretty much explains the massive gap in blog posts.  I can’t even blame putting all the interesting stuff on YouTube, because I’m months behind there, too.

Anyway, there’s no way I’ll get caught up on 6 months worth of news now, and some of it is in videos anyway, so this is going to be just a random collection of whatever news comes to mind.

Health News (the boring stuff)

I suppose the most important (though kind of boring now) news is a diabetes update.  It’s officially Type 1, which is the kind that most people develop in childhood, and is usually genetic (as opposed to Type 2, which is the one that’s usually caused by poor diet/exercise). It’s still a mystery why I suddenly developed it so late in life – my doctor said it might have been a virus that damaged my pancreas, which I think is doctor code for “I have no idea”.

Type 1 means I’ll need to be on insulin for the rest of my life (I’ve already got pretty blasรฉ about poking myself with needles, so that’s a less scary thought than it was 6 months ago), but on the plus side, the dietary restrictions are so much more relaxed than they are with Type 2 (where the treatment is all about controlling your weight), so in theory I can eat pretty much whatever I like, as long as it’s appropriately balanced with insulin.  In reality, I’m still learning to do the insulin balancing act, so I’ve been pretty restrictive in what I’ve been eating, sticking mostly to a few basic meals that I can easily work out the insulin for (it’s a whole procedure, weighing everything you eat, and calculating how many grams of carbohydrate everything contains, and then deciding how much insulin you need to take to balance that out), but I’m starting to get a bit braver about eating a wider range of food now. I haven’t been brave enough to eat things like cake yet though – my dietician (yes, I have a dietician now – she’s part of my clinical team at the Diabetes Centre.  And yes, I also have an entire clinical team!) said occasional sweet things are ok in moderation (the guidelines for type 1 diabetes nowadays are pretty much the same as the healthy heart guidelines), but so far, other than a few squares of sugar-free chocolate, I’ve been avoiding sugary stuff.  I fully intend to have cake for my birthday though!

Health News (the exciting stuff)

The more exciting news on the health front is that as part of all the “I have a chronic illness now, how am I going to cope?” soul-searching I did at the beginning of the year, I decided that it was time to do something drastic to take control of my life.  So instead of just watching top surgery videos on YouTube and wondering wistfully whether I could do that, I went and asked my GP about it.  Who referred me to a psychologist (psych sign-off is still required for any sort of gender-affirming treatments in NZ; the concept of informed consent hasn’t really reached us yet), who confirmed what I’d already suspected, that getting a place on the (decades-long) public waiting list would be pretty much impossible unless I was prepared to lie and say I was a binary trans man (which I’m definitely not), and go down the “traditional” pathway of hormones (which I don’t want) before surgery.  So that meant if I wanted surgery I’d have to go private.  And pay a lot of money, because I don’t have health insurance.

I almost gave up at that point, but when I had a look at my finances, I figured out that I could actually afford it, it would just mean a bit of re-prioritising.  And thinking about that made me realise that having a body that more closely matched my gender was going to make me a lot happier than renovating my bathroom, or replacing the carpets, or any of the other vague (and boringly practical) plans I had for that money.  So I rang a surgeon for a consultation, and I’m booked in for surgery in early August (!!!!).

Which is getting excitingly close!  I’m busy organising all the practical stuff for my recovery at the moment – I’ll basically have no movement in my upper body for the first few weeks, so I’m going to have to take full advantage of friends’ offers to help just to keep me fed and warm. Having to be dependent on people isn’t something I’m looking forward to, and I’m definitely not looking forward to the surgery itself, but I’m so looking forward to the result – having a flat chest will make it all worth it!

Christchurch News

Christchurch of course hit the world’s headlines again earlier this year, with the horrific shootings at the mosques.  It’s had a huge impact on our city, which only just starting to recover from the earthquakes (and then the fires).  I spent the first month or so after the attacks thinking they hadn’t affected me – I was safe at work when it happened (the campus went into lockdown, which was a bit scary because of the memories it brought back of the earthquakes, but mostly just an inconvenience – we weren’t allowed to leave the building until about 6.30 pm), and I didn’t know any of the victims, other than one man who I’d met briefly at my former ESOL student’s house, and who I would exchange nods with when I saw him on the bus.  But the horror of it, and the air of tension across the whole city (not helped by having police helicopters patrolling overhead for weeks, and armed police everywhere) got to all of us, I think – I was surprised how strongly I reacted when I accidentally saw part of the shooter’s livestream last month (we’ve been protected from seeing any of it here, because the NZ media has been very careful about not giving any airtime to the shooter or his manifesto – it’s only very recently that they’ve started referring to him by name, and not just as “the shooter”).  It was only a short clip from the beginning of the video, just of him getting out of his car to walk into the mosque, so nothing graphic (thankfully!), but it still made me feel physically sick, and almost in tears, just seeing that much.  So yes, the shootings affected me more than I thought.  But how much worse it must be for the families and friends of the victims, and for the survivors who can’t just turn off a video to avoid constantly seeing what happened.


I went to one of the memorial services (there were many), and afterwards walked past one of the areas where people had been leaving flowers.  There were so many of them – they filled the grass verge all the way along the block, plus there were more hanging from the fence, and on the other side in the botanic gardens.  The outpouring of love and grief from across the country was amazing.  I’d say it gave me hope, but of course all too soon everyone has forgotten, and are back to the casual everyday racism (just this morning our provincial rugby team announced they won’t be changing their name from the Crusaders, because there’s nothing wrong with associating yourself with a war between Christians and Muslims, apparently ๐Ÿ™ )

Craft News

One amazing response to the shootings was the Healing Hearts for Christchurch project, which started off with the aim of collecting blocks to make into quilts for the families of the victims, and quickly expanded to include quilts for all of the survivors and first responders, and for just about everyone in Christchurch’s Muslim community.  Last I heard they were up to nearly 900 quilts!

Pieta (a friend from work) and I got together one weekend to do our bit, and managed to sew 27 blocks to send off to the organisers in Auckland.

We had a few blocks left over that had turned out a bit small, so didn’t fit the requirements for the Healing Hearts project, so we turned them into a mini-quilt we could hang in the foyer of our building at work.


I did the quilting (which I’m quite proud of!), and Pieta did the binding and made the hanger.

It’s since been moved from the noticeboard where we’d hung it temporarily to a permanent position on the wall, where it’s displayed like an actual artwork, complete with a little nameplate giving its title (“ู…ุญุจุฉ/Aroha/Love”) and provenance! So I think I can call myself an artist now ๐Ÿ™‚

I got my first quilting commission this year too!  Our union organiser had loved the little “Rainbow/Te Kahukura” quilt I’d made for the union offices, so she asked me to make something larger to hang in the meeting space (and even paid me for it!  Though I only let her pay for the materials – that still counts as a commission, right, even if I didn’t charge for my time?).  She gave me pretty much free range on the design, but suggested I do something with “Tลซ Kotahi” (“Stand as one”, one of the union’s slogans). I expanded that idea to a general theme of diversity, and standing together, and I was pretty pleased with the result:


The background is an echo (if you squint your eyes the right way :-)) of the union’s logo, which has two interlocking spirals in shades of yellow and orange.  I tried to make the people as diverse as possible (I made this before March, or I’d have thought to put one of the women in a hajib) – as well as the obvious diversity with the rainbow flag and the wheelchairs, I tried to have each of the fabrics I used for the people represent a different discipline across the university: numbers for maths, cogs for engineering, bugs for biology, bones for history, words for English, a tui for NZ studies, and so on.

Then Pieta, after the success of our mini-quilt/artwork, asked if we could collaborate on another quilt, as a gift for a colleague who’s been having some health problems lately.  Complications with scheduling meant that after an initial design discussion, I ended up making most of the quilt myself, though PIeta is again doing the binding – she’s working on it at the moment, which is why I haven’t got a photo, because I forgot to take one before I passed it over to her.  I’ll get a photo once it’s finished, but for now you’ll just have to believe me that it looks really cool.

Looking back through my photos, I realise I haven’t posted proper photos of the last few projects I finished last year, either!

The biggest thing was finishing the “Millie’s Star” quilt. It ended up being a lot more work than I’d anticipated when I offered to make the girls quilts, but it was definitely worth the effort – I was so pleased with how it turned out, and both girls were totally thrilled with their quilts.

I’d stitched together all the strips I’d trimmed off the blocks for “Harmony’s Flying Foxes” (where I messed up the maths, so had to cut the blocks down a bit) into little scrappy log cabin blocks, so I used those to make a quick cushion for a bonus Christmas present for Niece:


She loved it (in fact, I think she liked it more than her actual present!), and apparently it still has pride of place in her bedroom ๐Ÿ™‚

And finally, one of the pile of Christmas mini-quilts that I started with the intention of giving to everyone a couple of Christmases ago, but totally failed at actually finishing at the time.  The rest are still sitting in the pile, but I actually managed to at least finish this one off in time to send it off with my Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange gift last year:

In other craft news, my rag rug is still in progress (almost finished though – I just need to stop getting distracted by other new and shiny things and get on with the last wee bit), various other quilts that were in progress this time last year (including the “Block of the Whenever”) are still sitting in my “get round to it one day” pile, and in the meantime I’ve started new projects (just about finished sewing the top for a quilt that’s going to be a gift, so I need to get it finished before my surgery!), and have a million more in the planning stages.  (Now you know why I never have time to blog anymore…)

And finally…

Just because I found this photo on my phone while searching for the quilt photos:

I actually managed to get to some of the Pride events this year. We don’t have a parade in Christchurch, but there were plenty of other cool events, including a picnic in Rangiora I went to with Harvestbird and family, where I got my face painted as “a purple rainbow cat butterfly”.  Because who wouldn’t, when presented with an option like that? ๐Ÿ™‚

So, about that slowing down

I really have been trying to take it a bit easier and look after myself, honestly!ย  I even took a couple of days off sick last week to get over the worst of this cold (though it’s still lingering a bit – I feel fine, but my voice is still really scratchy).ย  Of course, the temptation to use the long weekend achieving all the things was very strong.

After work on Thursday night I went out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group that I met during Pride week.ย  They seem to be a really friendly group of people, so I think I’ll keep going along to their meetups (once I get back from France, at least – the next couple of meetups are while I’m away).ย  It feels like time to start expanding my social circles again, now that I’ve stopped going to Toastmasters.

Friday I did spend reasonably quietly (enforced by the shops being shut for Good Friday) – after getting the housework out of the way, I spent most of the rest of the day just sitting outside reading.ย  See, resting!

Saturday, however, was a getting things done day.ย  First stop was the supermarket – normally I try and go on the way home from work, but having been off sick I hadn’t had a chance, so I was running out of everything.ย  Of course, I managed to mistime it so that I had to wait half an hour for a bus (or take a different bus and have a long walk with heavy bags at the other end, but see trying to rest as much as possible), but it was a nice day and I had a book with me, so that wasn’t too much of a hardship.ย  It did mean that pretty much as soon as I got home and got the groceries put away I had to dash out again, because I had a long list of things to get done in Riccarton, plus I was meeting a friend for afternoon tea.

I managed to get everything done in Riccarton with the minimum of stress (well, apart from the usual long weekend, the shops were shut yesterday so everyone’s in a panic that they’ll never be able to shop again, the mall is totally packed sort of stress, but that was to be expected).ย  The trickiest bit was trying to find a birthday present for Niece – I did brave a few of the terribly pink and demanding-of-gender-conformity toy aisles, and even visited that temple of tween consumerism Smiggle (where I was both disgusted and slightly impressed by the cleverness of the way they display their prices – or rather, don’t display prices for most of their stock.ย  None of the items have individual price tags, but are instead listed on (very small) sign boards on each shelf, making it near impossible to match an item to its price.ย  The only solution is to take the item up to the counter and ask for the price, which I’m sure is the downfall for many parents, because by the time you’ve got the over-priced pencil case your child is begging for to the counter, it’s going to be difficult to tell the child that no, it’s actually too expensive.ย  The psychology of it is brilliant.ย  The ethics, not so much.)ย  In the end, I had to retreat from all the pink glitter, and took solace in Whitcoulls, where I found a copy of Go Girl, Barbara Else’s new storybook about exceptional NZ women, which seemed a much more palatable choice of gift (to me, anyway – I suspect Niece would have preferred the pink glitter unicorns in Smiggle).

After all the shopping, I met up with Jenette at Coffee Culture for tea and cake, and lots of really interesting conversation. But why is it I always seem to make friends with people just before they leave the country? She’s moving back to Ireland in July, and seeing as I’m going to be away until May, we won’t have a lot of opportunities to catch up before she goes.ย  Oh well, it’s still nice to meet new and interesting people.

Dad had messaged me to say they’d be passing through Christchurch on their way south from Nelson, and that he also was on a birthday-present-buying mission, so I’d arranged to meet him at the mall once he got to Christchurch.ย  I’d thought I’d need to kill some time waiting, but Jenette and I had talked for so long that the timing worked out perfectly – I just had time to race in and buy myself new gymshoes and then it was time to meet Dad.ย  He was much more decisive than me about present-buying – we went into the kids’ clothing department at Farmers, he picked out a couple of items of the correct size off pretty much the first rack we saw, and I reckon we were out in the carpark again within about 5 minutes.ย  That’s the kind of shopping I aspire to!

Shopping accomplished, we picked up Stepmother and Stepsister, and (after being enthusiastically greeted by all of Stepsister’s dogs – she only has three, but somehow they always seem like a lot more than that!) we went over to a pub in St Martins for dinner.ย  A pleasant end to a very busy day.

Lytteltonwitch had proposed a road trip for Easter Sunday, and texted me to suggest Kaikoura.ย  It turned out she had an ulterior motive, because the town had recently been yarn-bombed, and she wanted to document it to send to her European yarn-bombing accomplices.ย  I didn’t mind though, because I haven’t been up to Kaikoura since their earthquake, and I was interested to see how things had changed, and in particular the changes to the seashore (where the seabed has been uplifted by several metres in some places). Plus our road trips are always fun, no matter the destination.

Despite there still being a lot of road works, Kaikoura was full of tourists, and seems to be well on the way to recovering from the earthquake.ย  The damage to the land itself is still very visible in places, with huge scars on the hills from the landslides, but the town itself doesn’t seem to be greatly changed.ย  The yarn bombers had been hard at work, and pretty much every post and railing (plus a park bench and a bicycle!) had been decorated, so we had a very slow walk along the main street while Lytteltonwitch took photos of them all.

In the rush to get organised to leave first thing, I’d neglected to take my big camera, so while we were wandering around the shore I was experimenting with my phone’s camera (see above). This led to experimenting with the video, which led to joking about being a vlogger now instead of a blogger.ย  So we proceeded to film a “totally professional” vlog, which lasted all the way back to Christchurch (and was over 2 hours long, and used up all the battery power and almost all the memory on my phone). Which I then spent most of today trying to cut down into something of a (slightly) more watchable length (ok, and playing round with adding silly title cards and stuff as well). Don’t think I’ll be giving up blogging for vlogging in a hurry (though it might be fun to try it again occasionally – I definitely learnt a lot from the process of making this one (mostly what NOT to do ๐Ÿ™‚ )) – it takes even longer to edit a vlog than it does for me to edit all the photos for a blog entry!

For your viewing pleasure:

Sitting at a computer all day editing video counts as resting, right?

Slowly falling apart… with childhood illnesses?

Because bodies are evil, and know when you’re on holiday, mine has decided to get sick this week, with strep throat of all things.ย  I’ve never had it before, but was under the impression it’s something that only kids get.ย  But no, apparently adults can get it too, and I have it.

Luckily it’s not too bad – very sore, and I feel like I’ve got a lump stuck in my throat, but otherwise I’m not feeling unwell other than a little tired (which I’d just attributed to too many late nights recently).ย  I went and saw the doctor today, and she prescribed me some painkillers and antibiotics, and told me the best treatment was to rest and eat icecream (I reckon that’s the best advice I’ve ever had from a doctor!ย  Hmm, I wonder if I should keep eating the icecream even after the infection is gone, just as a preventative measure? I think that sounds like a good idea ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Other than getting a sore throat, I’ve been having a very lazy couple of days, slowly working my way through quilting all those birds (I think I’m about a quarter of the way through it), and sitting in the garden with a book, trying not to forget to move into the shade so I don’t get even more sunburnt.ย  I did have a few visitors yesterday – Stepmother is in town visiting her daughter, so they came round in the morning to drop off a couple of tubs of cherries.ย  Stepsister also invited me to go and visit a friend of hers in the evening, who is selling off most of her fabric stash in an attempt to declutter.ย  In the end we didn’t go, because Stepsister wasn’t feeling well enough, but that was probably a good thing – I really don’t need any more fabric, do I?ย  (Trick question, of course I do!ย  But having the temptation removed was probably a good idea.)

Then in the afternoon, Ade popped round to steal some lemons off my tree.ย  It was good to catch up with her, because they’re moving up to Auckland in a few weeks, so I won’t see much more of her.

Right, I’m off to follow the doctor’s orders and have some icecream ๐Ÿ™‚

Party Prep Part 1

Tonight is the first of two Christmas parties I’m hosting this year, this one for my team at work.ย  It’s pot luck, so not a lot of prep needed (except I am my mother’s child, so of course I’ve spent the day cleaning parts of the house that visitors will never see anyway…)

Food-wise, my contribution is a couple of dishes that definitely fall into my favourite party food category – things that look impressive, but take very little work.

First, a red onion and capsicum tart (bought pre-rolled pastry, sautรฉ the vegetables, mix with eggs and cheese, bake, and done):

And then, for pudding, trifle (with bought sponge cake, tinned fruit, and a tub of pre-made custard (thanks Mum for teaching me about the existence of that ultimate convenience food!) – I did whip the cream myself though…):

It’s years since I made trifle (probably since Granny was alive, and I used to help her make the trifle for New Years Day – mine contains a LOT less sherry than Granny used to slosh into hers, though!), but seeing as one of my colleagues is Belgian, and it’s his first Christmas in NZ, I thought it would be cool to do something traditional (as much as anything is traditional about a NZ Christmas).

So, prep done, and now I can sit down and relax for an hour or two until everyone arrives.

Not all my own work

When I was down in Alexandra the other day, mum gave me an old piece of appliquรฉ she’s had for ages, and asked it I could quilt it and turn it into a cushion cover for her.ย  So that’s what I spent yesterday afternoon doing (in between writing that ridiculously long blog post).

Stupidly, I forgot to take a before photo, so you’ll just have to be satisfied with photos of the finished object (you can just use your imagination for the before shot – it looked like this, but flat, and with no binding):


I wanted the appliquรฉ to really stand out, so I used the same technique as with the skeleton, stitching in the ditch around the main elements, and then using a really dense quilting pattern for the background (possibly too dense – it’s a bit stiff for a cushion cover, really, but I wanted to keep the scale of the quilting really small to be in fitting with the size of the piece).ย  I found a scrap of super-high loft batting to use, so the flowers really puff out:

I even managed to find some fabric in my stash that matched the colours in the flowers almost perfectly, so I could give it a nice colourful binding to frame the picture.ย  I reckon it turned out pretty good.

It’s a bit of a weird shape for a cushion (which is why it looks a bit strange here – I didn’t have a cushion the right size to fit it, so I just stuffed it quickly with an old towel for the photo), but the fabric was too small to square up, and adding extra borders on the sides would have looked strange, so it’ll just have to be a rectangular cushion.ย  I think it looks ok, anyway.

And it means that for once I’m showing off a completed project (even if most of the work on it was done by someone else), instead of a work in progress!

Hope you like it mum!ย  I’ll try and remember to take it into work tomorrow so I can post it to you.