Playgrounds and poetry

Brother and family were up at the weekend to go to a concert. It was a bit of a flying visit, but I met up with them for dinner on Sunday night, and then took the morning off on Monday (finally using up some time in lieu I accumulated months ago!) so I could faciliate a meeting between Niece and the mini Harvestbirds (who met her at my graduation party, and had asked me frequently when she’d be back in Christchurch so they could play with her again) at the Margaret Mahy playground before the family headed home.  The meeting was a great success – the children reconnected and spent several hours playing happily on the playground, while Brother, SIL, Nephews (who are getting much too grown up to be classed among the children any more), Harvestbird and I sat in the sun and chatted.  Definitely the best possible way to spend a Monday morning!


Last night was a very late one, because I went with Harvestbird to an open mic poetry night.  Stepsister is a regular attendee (and I think involved in organising them?) and had invited me to come along sometime, mainly because there’s quite a few NB-type people who go along and she thought I might like to meet them.  I extended the invite to Harvestbird, seeing as she’s a real poet, so we met up for dinner beforehand, then went to hear the poetry (and participate, in Harvestbird’s case).

It was a really fun night – the poetry was of variable quality (from amazingly good to seriously average), but most of the poets only read two or three poems, so even the not-so-good ones weren’t up for long enough to become tedious (and the really good ones more than made up for them!), and there were all sorts of little fun audience participation traditions the event has (like everyone singing when a new poet gets up to read for the first time – Harvestbird was greeted with a rousing round of Oma Rāpeti, complete with all the actions), plus regular breaks to let people refresh drinks and chat.

I never did end up meeting the NB people Stepsister had promised to introduce me to (I think maybe they weren’t there – she mentioned there were a lot of people missing that normally turned up), but it was definitely worth going along anyway just for the entertainment.  Harvestbird was keen to go back again too, so maybe if I go to enough of them I’ll be inspired to brush off my own very rusty poetifying skills (don’t hold your breath!)


In other news, still no progress on the whole having a government thing, but the final results with the special votes should be out soon, which is what Peters says he’s waiting for, so hopefully things will start moving after that…  And in the meantime, other than a lot of “experts” pontificating in the media about which way they predict Peters will go, the country potters along as if there’d never even been an election.


Three happy things:

  1.  Nephew #1 shot me a rabbit the night before they came up to Christchurch.  It was delivered to me skinned and gutted but otherwise intact, but thankfully Brother quickly deboned it for me and cut it into usable pieces, so I was able to cook myself a very tasty stir-fried rabbit and peppers dish for dinner on Monday night, and there’s enough meat left that I’ll be able to make a small casserole at the weekend. Parsnips got the scraps, but wasn’t overly impressed, and only ate it when it became clear I wasn’t going to give her anything else – rabbit is a bit gamey for her fussy nose, I think.  But that’s ok, even if she doesn’t appreciate Nephew’s gift, I certainly do!
  2. I started quilting the mystery quilt, and it’s going really well (wish I could show off some work in progress photos, but they’d give the game away).  I’ve been trying out some new FMQ techniques, and I’m really pleased with how they’re turning out – I reckon the quilt should look pretty cool once it’s finished.
  3. The weather has been warm enough for the last few days to have the windows open.  It’s amazing how much better the world feels when there’s a pleasant breeze wafting through it.

A spot of colour on a grey day

It’s a grey and drizzly day, and not at all ideal for photographing quilts, but I finished binding the Little Squares quilt last night, and I’m off to Wellington tomorrow (these are completely unrelated events, except that being in Wellington will mean I won’t get another chance to take a better photo of the quilt over the weekend), so I dashed out before work this morning to get a few quick pictures:

I’m really pleased with my quilting on this one. Rather than doing an all-over design, I branched out and used the blocks as inspiration for the quilting. It’s not perfect, but I think it looks really good, and it’s another small step in expanding my quilting skills.

The effect is really cool on the back, too:


Work has been ridiculously busy, with a major project deadline looming (actually, several project deadlines – it’s a PBRF round this year (contestable funding based on the amount of research the university produces), so everyone is rushing to get things finished before the end of the year.  Which, for our biggest project, means getting it finished in the next few weeks so it can go to peer review in time to be published in December.)

And with perfect timing, I’m taking the day off tomorrow.  It’s kind of work related though – I’m off to Wellington for a union conference on LGBTQI+ issues in the workplace.  (This seems to be how the union’s going to suck me in to being active again – I turned down the offer to return to the branch committee, but this conference comes with a free trip to Wellington, so, yeah, looks like I’m getting involved in the union again…)

Anyway, it means I’m now doubly rushed to get everything done this week, so I’m grabbing a few minutes in my lunch hour to write this, then it’ll be back to debugging code.  So many bugs…


The other not ideal timing about going away this weekend is that Dad rang to say he and Stepmother are in Akaroa, and planning to come over to Christchurch for the weekend, so while he’s here do I want him to help me paint the laundry (so I don’t have to spend the insurance payout on a professional painter).  Except I’m not going to be here…  Of course, Dad being Dad, he offered to just do the painting himself (and let’s be honest, it was always going to be more a case of me helping him paint, not the other way around), so he’s going to pop round tonight to pick up a key.  So I should come home from Wellington to a freshly painted laundry area.


I never got round to writing anything last weekend, but I did have an interesting Friday night.  There was a night market in the Arts Centre, with a talk at the Teece Museum on the night-life of ancient Rome.  I met up with Lytteltonwitch at the talk (which was really interesting – all about how most depictions of Roman street scenes are nothing like the reality, which would have been crowded, messy, and pretty dangerous), then afterwards we wandered around the market and the shops that have just (re)opened in one of the newly restored buildings – including Fudge Cottage, which was such a wonderfully nostalgic sight to see back in the Arts Centre (I remember going there at the weekend to buy fudge (or just try the free samples if we were all feeling poor) when I first moved to Christchurch) that of course we had to buy a few pieces (well, that was our excuse, anyway!).

Walking back to the bus exchange, we spotted a man feeding the eels in the Avon.  So of course we stopped to watch, and ended up staying chatting to him for about half an hour, while he fed the eels (and a very large trout who joined the party) an entire pottle of cat food.  They are fascinating to watch (as long as you keep your fingers out of the way – they can give you a nasty nip if they mistake a dangling finger for food, and they’ll climb up out of the water to get at it) – we all agreed it was much more entertaining way to spend a Friday night than going to the pub!

Right, time to get back to those bugs…

So many updates

Sorry about the delay in posting.  A combination of being too busy, and having many many photos I wanted to add to a post, but my computer’s been playing up again (I’m about to give up and pay someone to fix it properly, because my “wiggle a few wires and hope” fix keeps failing) and I keep losing access to my E: drive, which happens to be where my decent photo editing software lives, and the built-in “tools” (yeah, right) that come with Windows 10 are terrible, and make me give up in frustration half way through the first photo.  However, I have armed myself with a supply of chocolate, and I am determined not to leave this computer again until I have finished editing and uploading the photos, and writing this post!

Graduation was wonderful, of course.  I was a banner bearer again, and, as I was also graduating, asked to carry the university crest banner (also known as “the dead sheep”) which leads the academic procession onto the stage.  It was raining, thanks to Cyclone Cook, so we didn’t do the full procession into the venue, just a short procession from the foyer into the hall, but it was still a very proud moment 🙂 So much so that I’m even going to post photos of myself here – I know, right?!  I’ll restrain from posting all of the millions of photos of the ceremony that Dad took, or all of the many many combinations of family photos from after the ceremony, but here’s just a few of my favourites:


My thesis supervisor, Heidi.


Best bit of my graduation outfit 🙂

A fantastic day (ignoring the little glitch where I forgot to put my trencher back on after receiving my degree – my excuse was that I missed the briefing for graduands because I was at the rehearsal for the banner bearers, so while waiting to go on stage I was frantically trying to remember the correct sequence of hold trencher in left hand, walk across stage, shake hands with Chancellor, receive degree with right hand, put trencher back on, leave stage without tripping down stairs, and I kind of forgot one step.  Either that I was just so happy to be graduating my brain had shut down 🙂 )

After the ceremony I took the Niblings back to the campus (graduation is always held off-campus, because there’s no on-campus venue big enough – before the earthquakes it was held in the Town Hall, but now it’s out at Horncastle Arena).  Our first stop was the staff club, where they were putting on a barbecue lunch for graduates and families.  We sat with the other Linguistics postgrads (almost all of whom were there, despite only a couple of us graduating that day, because one of the PhD students was the musical act for the barbecue, so everyone else had come along to watch him play), and I think the kids were suitably impressed by the number of accents around the table (the Linguistics department gets a lot of postgrads coming from overseas to study here – for a while, I was the only postgrad in the department who spoke NZ English!).

Niece also got to chat with the Chancellor.  She’d come with me up to the bar to get a soft drink, and the Chancellor, who was sitting nearby, came over and asked her if she was going to come to UC when she grows up.  She told him she’d think about it 🙂  When we went back to our seats, asked me if he was the guy who’d been wearing the fancy clothes up on stage, so I explained she’d just been chatting with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.

After lunch I took the kids for a tour around the campus – Nephew #1 is getting to an age where he’s starting to think about his university options, so he was interested to just have a look around the campus (I think he was surprised at just how big it is, compared to the little country high school he attends!).  Apparently what impressed Niece the most was visiting my office – when she got home, she excitedly told everyone we each have two computers on our desks (actually, we just have just dual monitors, but close enough :-))

The next day was my graduation party.  And the rain continued.  We’d put up a couple of marquees in the back yard the night before to try and keep the ground a bit drier, and by morning the rain had eased off to just drizzle, but it was still pretty damp.  I decided we were going to make the most of it, though, so I decided to use the garage as another dry space if required, declared the sunroom as the kids’ room and stocked it with colouring materials so that parents would have a warm and dry place to safely deposit their small people (under the “supervision” of Niece) if needed, declared the house to be a shoes-off zone to avoid too much tracking of mud in and out, and we set to work (with the help of Fuzzle, who’d arrived the night before, and Lytteltonwitch, who’d come early to help out) sweeping away all the leaves that had fallen in the winds overnight, and decorating the marquees and garage with balloons and streamers to try and cheer up the gloomy day.  Havestbird arrived to do clever things with my hair, so her girls helped out with the decorations, and by the time Jan (the caterer, a former colleague of mine who took redundancy from the university to set up a “pop-up tearooms” business) arrived to set up the food, everything was looking very colourful.

Amazingly, the rain stopped just in time for the party, and the sun even made a weak attempt to peek out from among the clouds.  A few people I’d hoped would be able to come didn’t make it (most notably, Jenny and Christian, who’d come over from Australia for the party, but ended up spending the day in the emergency room instead after Christian had a bad allergic reaction to some medication he’d taken the day before), but a whole load of my favourite people were there (including my other supervisor, Lynn, who hadn’t been able to come to graduation because she has a very new baby, so I was so happy she was at the party), and everyone got on really well (always a worry when you bring together people from different parts of your life), and the food was wonderful (of course! I knew Jan would produce something wonderful 🙂 ), and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

I’d asked my nephews to be waiters, half expecting them to get bored and wander off to play on the computer after half an hour, but they did a fantastic job, and spent the afternoon enthusiastically helping Jan out in the kitchen, and handing round drinks, tea, and plates of goodies.  They took their instructions a little bit too literally though – I asked them to make sure all the guests had a drink, and they did exactly that, offering everyone a drink as they arrived, and keeping glasses and tea-cups topped up.  But they never brought me a drink, of course, because I wasn’t a guest! 🙂  But I was a very proud aunty anyway, because everyone kept telling me how polite the boys were.


The fanciest my hair has ever been! (Harvestbird made good use of her mother-to-two-small-girls braiding skills)


Lyttelton’s “plus one”, Albert. Wearing an Easter Bunny costume in honour of Good Friday, of course.


Albert ended up a little bit the worse for wear…

 


I discovered later that Niece had decorated my front doorstep with a chalk portrait of me as FutureCat 🙂 (The writing says “Don’t rub off”)


The aftermath. Despite the best efforts of Jan and the boys, it’s impossible to carry plates of food in and out to a muddy garden while keeping the floor clean (at least the kitchen is accessible via the back door, so they could constrain the mud to the linoleum, and not have to track it through the carpet in the front hall). It was still a big job washing all that mud off the floor the next morning, although the doormat took the brunt of it…

Although we were all very full with cake (There was a HUGE amount of cake.  And little sandwiches.  And scones with jam and clotted cream.  As I may have mentioned, Jan did a fantastic job with the catering), after most of the guests had departed, the rest of us headed into town to the food trucks in the Square, as I’d promised Dad we would last time he visited.   There weren’t as many people as usual (probably because of the weather and the holiday), so there weren’t the usual queues for the popular trucks, so we had a pleasant evening sampling the fare from various trucks and watching a group of break-dancers.

The next morning I had a surprise planned for the Niblings, as a late and/or early birthday present – I’d bought us all (plus Dad and Lytteltonwitch) tickets to the Crate Escape, an escape room that’s just opened in Christchurch.  Escape rooms are pretty new in NZ, so none of us had done one before.  It was great fun – we were locked into a room (inside a shipping container, of course – this is Christchurch, after all) and had 90 minutes to find the clues that would let us out.  The puzzles you had to solve were really nicely varied, so everyone had a chance to be good at something, and most of them needed some sort of teamwork (usually because half of a clue would be at one end of the room, and the other at the other end, so you’d have to communicate with each other to get the complete answer), so it was perfect to do as a group.  We got a pretty good time considering it was our first time – the guy on the front desk told us the average is 50 minutes, and we managed it in 45.

Niece went back to Alexandra with Dad and Stepmother that afternoon, but the boys stayed on with me for a few days (as did Fuzzle).  After all the excitement of graduation and the party, we had a pretty low-key remainder of the Easter break – mostly doing jigsaws and playing on the computer, with a few excursions into town for meals and to visit the Art Gallery.  It was still a fun visit though, and I think all enjoyed themselves.

I managed to catch up with Jenny and Christian for lunch (at Foo San, of course!) before they headed back to Brisbane.  It was great to see Jenny again after so long (I was surprised to realise it’s been four years since they moved to Australia!), and to realise that she’s one of those wonderful sort of friends where you can not see each other for years, and then just pick up the conversation where you left off.  They had a graduation present for me too – a voucher to Scorpios bookshop (they know me so well 🙂 )  So of course I grabbed the first opportunity I could to pop into town and do a little shopping:

The other seriously cool graduation present I got was from Mum – a sewing table.  Actually, I’d been looking at them for a while, and had pretty much made up my mind to just buy myself one, but Mum suggested it would make a good graduation present.  It was supposed to arrive before graduation, but there was a saga with the courier company (I never did figure out exactly what happened, but the track and trace kept telling me it was in Christchurch and would be delivered that day… the next day… the next day… until I finally rang them and the person who answered the phone discovered that for some reason it had just been sitting in the depot for a week, and was never even loaded onto the van for delivery… She was most apologetic, and it got delivered to me a couple of hours later.  The company was Post Haste, in case you want to know who to avoid in future).

Anyway, I finally got my table, and (after quite a bit of rearranging of the furniture in the study) got it set up:

It’s seriously cool – the machine sits down within the table, so that the tabletop is flush with the bed of the machine, which effectively gives you a sewing surface the size of the table – so much easier than trying to manoeuvre a quilt around on a tiny surface, and also ergonomically much better, because you’re sewing at a more natural height than when the machine is up on top of a table.

While I was rearranging furniture, I moved the bookcases out of the study so that I could have a design wall. It’s another thing I’ve wanted for ages – somewhere other than the floor to lay out quilt pieces so you can rearrange the pieces and plan how the finished quilt will look before you sew it together.

I was really pleased how it turned out. It’s just a flannelette sheet stapled to the wall (cotton fabric sticks wonderfully to flannelette, so it works great for a design wall – you don’t need to pin the pieces up or anything), but it looks quite professional. I think I need to stop calling this room my study though. Previously it was a study that happened to have a sewing machine in it, but now it’s more like a sewing room that happens to have a computer in it.

The pieces on the wall are the beginnings of a mini-quilt I promised the union organiser I’d make for the TEU’s Rainbow Te Kahukura subcommittee – she’s going to hang it in the window of the union offices as a sign that the union is an LGBTQI+ friendly space. Of course, once I’d started playing with my new setup, I had to keep going, so I ended up finishing the entire quilt by the next day – quilted with a rainbow design, of course 🙂 (I also discovered another use for my design wall – it make a great place to photograph work in progress!)

I tore myself away from my sewing on Saturday morning to go to the March for Science with Harvestbird and family. I had some cardboard from the box the table came in, so I plagiarised a few of the best slogans I’d seen on line for signs.

The march was quite small (just a few hundred people, from what I could tell), but very good-natured, and the speeches at the end were thankfully short, so it was a most enjoyable event. The elder mini-Harvestbird was very excited that she got to carry a sign in the march – Harvestbird is obviously doing a great job of raising future activists 🙂

Some random photos from the march: (and then I’m never posting another photo until I get this computer fixed, because not having a decent photo editor is driving me mad!!!)

At least I don’t have any photos to post for last night’s excursion (even though the whole point of it was to take photos).  As those of you who live in appropriate latitudes will know, there’s been a very impressive display of aurora for the last couple of nights, so last night Lytteltonwitch suggested we take a road trip out to Lake Ellesmere, which is away from the lights of the city, and has a good clear view to the south, and see if we could spot them.  It had been a beautifully clear day, so the chances seemed good, so we headed out after the sun had set.  Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, it was covered in mist, which quickly thickened into fog, so it was impossible to see anything of the sky.  We decided to try Rakaia Huts instead, so got back in the car to head over there.

As we drove back round the base of the hills, there was a continuous stream of traffic heading out to the lake – I reckon everyone in Christchurch must have had the same idea, despite the ever-thickening fog.  Most people were driving to the conditions (the fog was so thick that the visibility was down to tens of metres, and it’s a typical NZ country road – unlit, winding, and narrow), so the traffic was travelling pretty slowly.  Unfortunately, some people weren’t so sensible, and were getting impatient at the slow traffic, so we were very nearly in a head-on collision when one driver decided to try and pass the long line of traffic.  In thick fog.   On a narrow country road.

The first we saw of him was a faint orange glimmer of lights through the fog, which I at first thought were the tail-lights of a car in front of us.  By the time my brain had registered that they didn’t look quite right for tail-lights, and seemed to be getting closer rather fast, Lytteltonwitch had slammed on the brakes (luckily we were going slowly enough that the car behind us had time to react too).  Thankfully the idiot coming towards us also just had time to react, and managed to pull back into the traffic on his side of the road (there was a lot of horn tooting going on at that moment!), or he would have hit us head on.  We were only doing about 60 km/h, and he wouldn’t have been going a lot faster, but still the combined impact would have been enough for a very serious crash, especially considering the amount of other traffic around us.  Quite a scary moment!

After we got our heartbeats back down to something approaching normal, we decided we’d carry on to Rakaia Huts (driving very slowly and carefully!), but there was fog out there too.  We did contemplate going up the Port Hills to try and get above the fog, but decided that the half of Christchurch that hadn’t gone to Lake Ellesmere would be up in the hills, and we’d had enough near misses for one night without tempting fate on roads with sheer drops alongside them, so we headed back into town (via the well-lit main highway!).  So no photos of the aurora, but at least we’re still alive!

And that’s (phew!) everything that I’ve been up to for the last week or two.

Cat on a cold tin roof

Amazingly, the sun actually came out over the weekend, and the forecast for Thursday and Friday is now just “drizzle at time”, rather than rain.  Drizzle at times I can handle.  Drizzle at times means just ducking under the shelter of the marquee for a few minutes until the sun comes out again.  Drizzle at times won’t rain out my party.

I spotted the neighbour’s cat making the most of the sunshine on the roof of my garage yesterday morning.  I’m not sure how he got up there, but given that I know he can leap to the top of the fence easily enough, the extra leap to the roof probably isn’t that tricky.

I had an incredibly busy weekend (and this week is going to be even busier!). On Saturday morning I met up with Lytteltonwitch and we went to the Food Show. Like last year, I got sent free tickets from a PR company (so I probably should have got round to posting something about it before the show was over, so that you’d have the chance to go if liked my pretty pictures, but like I said, too busy…). I don’t know if it was just because it was the second year I’ve been, or because I’ve got a million other things on my mind at the moment, but I wasn’t as impressed by it this year as I was last year – there seemed to be fewer exhibitors (or maybe just fewer exhibitors with products I was interested in), and the celebrity chefs on offer didn’t inspire me greatly (although that’s a matter of personal choice – I know lots of people were raving over Annabel Langbein being there, but she doesn’t really do much for me). However, there was still quite a lot to see: creatively presented exhibits, “health” foods made out of every ingredient you could imagine (my favourite was the raspberry and artichoke (and possibly garlic – it wasn’t entirely clear from their signage) dip), inventive products you never knew you needed, and people in silly hats. And of course, many many free samples. Definitely didn’t need lunch after doing the rounds of the exhibits!

I even bought something – some beeswax-infused cloths that you can use to wrap food instead of using gladwrap or plastic bags. I seem to go through a vast amount of gladwrap taking lunch to work, so we’ll see if these work out better. Or whether I just get lazy about the extra effort of cleaning the cloth each time I use it, and go back to quick and easy plastic…

After we left the Food Show, I dashed up to Northlands to buy some almost last minute bits and pieces for my party, then back home to get ready to go out again. Dana, one of our volunteers, had invited me to her birthday party, at a karaoke bar. I was a bit doubtful about the karaoke, having only experienced it (or rather, avoided it) in the “getting up to sing in front of a bar full of drunken idiots” NZ version, but this turned out to be the more traditional version. Our party (only 8 people) had a private room, which made the idea of singing much less intimidating (especially as none of Dana’s other friends knew me, so I didn’t mind making a fool of myself in front of them :-)). Dana spent a few years living in Japan, and speaks Japanese fluently, so the party was a mix of about half Japanese (or Japanese-speaking) people, and the other half Pakeha NZers, and the music choices reflected that – we were going from anime theme tunes to Disney musicals, and pop songs from half a dozen countries. It turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected, and the three hours we had the room booked for flew past very quickly!

On Sunday, Harvestbird came round for a graduation hair rehearsal. She’s been learning to do all sorts of fancy hair braiding (one of the perils of having two daughters, apparently), so offered to do something clever with my hair for graduation. So while the girls were occupied making decorations for the party, she experimented with various styles, and managed to come up with something that should look good under a trencher, without being too “girly” (the main two instructions I gave her :-)). Photos will of course follow at a later date.

Then I had to get dressed up to go out again, this time for dinner with Pieta, a friend from work. She’s away for Easter, and was most disappointed she wouldn’t be able to make it to my party, so suggested we go out for dinner to celebrate instead. We went to Strawberry Fare, which I haven’t been to for years – it’s expensive, but the food (ok, the desserts – nobody goes to Strawberry Far for the mains, they’re just what you order so you can pretend you’re a responsible adult) is really good. And the service has definitely improved from what it was like before the earthquakes – you actually get the kind of service you’d expect for the prices, now.

Pieta has been learning to weave, and gave me a lovely bouquet of flax flowers she’d spent the day weaving:

So yeah, a very full weekend. Tonight I’m going to a sciency/mathsy stand-up show, then tomorrow I’ve got a full-day workshop at work, and in the evening there’s a Toastmasters meeting, and a farewell for one of our members, then on Wednesday I’ve got to pick up my graduation regalia, and organise some more last-minute stuff, then family are arriving in the evening, then Thursday is graduation, then Fuzzle arrives that night, and Friday is my party, and on Saturday I’m taking the kids to the Crate Escape for their joint belated/early birthday present… and I’m already feeling exhausted just thinking about it! Good thing Easter and ANZAC Day fall so close together this year, so I can take the few days off in between and have a nice long break – I’m going to need it!

Thokk

No progress on (any of) the quilt(s), because I’ve been too busy the last couple of days being social and stuff.

Dad came up yesterday, because friends of his were hosting a mini music festival out at Whitecliffs (about 70 km from Christchurch) today.  He’d originally invited me to go out there with him today for the festival itself, but I already had other plans (see below), so plans were changed, and instead I went out there with him yesterday, supposedly to help with the setting up.  But when we got there, everything was pretty much done, except for putting up a couple of marquees that they’d decided to leave until morning in case the wind came up overnight.  So other than helping secure a few guy ropes, we pretty much just sat around chatting.  Which was fine, until I got stuck talking to some guy (a friend of a friend of Dad’s friends, I think) who just wanted to rant about the fact that Christchurch doesn’t have great facilities for campervans (yeah, we’ve had more important things to worry about for the past few years, actually).  I suddenly remembered I had my camera with me, and made an excuse about wanting to photograph the gardens (which were pretty spectacular, actually) so I could make my escape, and very shortly afterwards Dad similarly ran out of patience with boring ranty guy, and decided that I definitely needed a photographic assistant 🙂

As there was no actual work that needed doing, and the rest of the afternoon was threatening to be dominated by boring ranty guy finding more things to complain about (or worse, he’d get onto politics, which I suspect we would strongly disagree on, and I was running out of things to rush off and photograph), so Dad (who hates sitting around doing nothing even more than I do) suggested we go back into town for dinner. I gladly agreed, so we said goodbye to Dad’s friends (and I promised that next year I’d stay for the concert), and we headed back to Christchurch.

I’d been telling Dad about the Friday night food trucks, and he wanted to know if any of them were open on a Saturday night (because last time he ate at anything resembling a food truck was back in the good old pie cart* days). I couldn’t think of any, but we did a tour round central Christchurch checking out the most likely spots to find them (the Commons, the Arts Centre, Re:Start, the Square…), but the only ones we found had already shut up for the night. So we ended up going to Mexico (the restaurant, not the country 🙂 ) instead, for Mexican tapas (yeah, I know, but fusion or something). Really good food, as it always is, but I didn’t read the menu closely enough when we ordered, so ended up eating lamb that had been infused with coffee, and which obviously still contained vast amounts of caffeine (or actually, possibly just a tiny amount, because I’m super-sensitive to caffeine), so I didn’t sleep for most of the night because my head was still buzzing.

* Sorry foreigners, that’s a bit of NZ culture it’s impossible to explain. But try and imagine the greasiest fried foods you’ve ever eaten, served from a caravan late at night after the pubs close, and patronised mainly by drunks, and you’d be getting close to what a pie cart was.

Dad headed back out to Whitecliffs this morning, and I tried to catch up on some sleep (unsuccessfully – I never manage to sleep during the day) before going over to the Gwilks in the afternoon to play Dungeons and Dragons.  They’ve had a game going for a while, and had invited me to join them, but I was too busy with my thesis previously, so today was my first chance to join the game.  I haven’t played since high school, so I was very rusty, and had to keep asking what dice I was supposed to roll when, but it was a lot of fun.  My character is Thokk, a half-orc barbarian, who communes with wolves, goes into a murderous rage whenever friends are threatened, and has a tendency to hit enemies over the head with a large hammer.  Not exactly playing to type 🙂 I decided it would be more interesting to just follow where the dice rolls led when creating my character, instead of picking and choosing to get a character I liked, and Thokk was the result.

I suspect this character is going to end up being a lot of fun to play, precisely because it’s so far from what I normally would choose 🙂

We’re gonna need a bigger boat

I basted the flower garden quilt yesterday.  Which is just a fancy way of saying I pinned the top, batting and back together so that it’s ready for quilting.  Which means you’ve got to spread out the fabrics somewhere you can lay them completely flat before you pin, otherwise you get wrinkles in the backing.  Except I made the quilt just a little bit too big for the biggest bit of floor space I have:

I think I need a bigger room. Or maybe I could just get rid of some furniture – I don’t really need a couch in my living room, do I?

I did manage to get it basted in the end, by leaving the edges until last and then moving it around a bit, but the thought of getting that massive quilt on my little sewing machine is a bit daunting!  (And as quilts go, it’s not actually that huge – it’s a bit less than queen size).

In the meantime, to get my FMQ muscles back in shape, I quilted the hedgehog.  I decided to try a spiky sort of quilting design, and I think it came out really well.

It even looks cool on the back. I used more of the orange fabric for the backing, and the spiky stitching on it came out looking like a cross between flames and an autumn leaf pile:

Just got to put the binding on, and it’ll be done (that’s the nice thing about mini quilts – they don’t take months (or years, in the case of the bird quilt!) to finish 🙂 )


I haven’t just been using my days off to sew (ok, mostly I’ve been using them to sew, but I have done some other stuff, honestly!).  Yesterday I met up with some old friends of Mum’s for afternoon tea.  They moved up to Christchurch a couple of years ago, and actually live in the next suburb over from me, but I hadn’t got round to getting in touch with them.  However, the other day I ran into them unexpectedly, so we made arrangements to meet up.  It was great catching up with them (I think I’ve seen them in person only a couple of times since I was at high school!), and they’re really lovely people – they kept insisting if I ever needed any help with anything to call on them, and they’ve promised to invite me to their next barbecue – you’d think it was me who’d newly moved into the area, not them! 🙂

And yes, Mum, I passed on your news, and they’re totally thrilled for you (though they’ve already probably rung you to tell you that – I think P. was going to ring you as soon as he got home!)


In other news, I think it’s time for a rebranding around here.  This blog stopped being primarily about bookcrossing a long time ago, so it seems silly that the name and theme is so bookcrossing-focussed. So I need a new name, and a new decorating scheme.

Except for I don’t know what to call it!  Any thoughts?  I’d like to get FutureCat in the title somewhere, but I can’t think of anything that doesn’t sound cheesy.  Maybe I should just follow Yetzirah’s lead and just make the title my name?  Any ideas greatly appreciated!

Still modelling…

Actually, I thought I’d finally finished my modelling a few days ago, but I met with my supervisors today, and they’ve recommended I run a few more, so it’s back to sitting waiting for models to run.  In the meantime, I’ve started writing up what I’ve done so far, and I’m making ok progress – 7,000 words down, 18,000 to go… (of course, the 7,000 words I’ve written are the easy ones – they get harder from here on in).

But at least in a couple of days the Christmas break starts, and then I’m on leave until the end of January.  Not that I’ll be using the time for a holiday – I’ll be working full time on my thesis (well, apart from Christmas day itself – Dad and Stepmother are coming up to visit Stepsister, and I’ve been invited to her place to spend the day with them, so I’ll have an enforced break 🙂 ).  But after nearly a year of working full time, plus working on my thesis part time, just having one thing to concentrate on for the next month will feel totally relaxing in comparison!  (Except for the whole looming deadline thing, of course…)


I did have a bit of a break from working the other weekend.  I was feeling like I hadn’t done anything creative for such a long time that I was going to explode from lack of creativity, so I took a few hours to make some wee Christmas presents for friends and colleagues.

As you can see, it took a few goes before I figured the design out properly (I was working from memory of something I’d seen on a YouTube video, and couldn’t find the video again to check exactly what they’d done – which is also why I’m not crediting the designer here, because I still can’t find the video).  I was pretty pleased with how they turned out though (even the first few “failures” look quite nice, it’s just the final version look even better 🙂 ) – especially the 3D effect of the folded triangles (I think this pattern is called a pineapple log cabin – it definitely has a certain pineappleyness about it, anyway).


Anyway, hope you all have a good Christmas (or whatever else you are celebrating), and a happy and safe New Year, and hopefully next time you hear from me I’ll have written those remaining 18,000 words and be ready to submit…

See you on the other side!

Final countdown

Do do do do, do do do-do dooo… sorry, accidentally segued into bad 80s music there.  But I’m all packed, the house is tidy, I’ve left a note for my house-sitter, and in an hour or so Lytteltonwitch will turn up and we’ll be off to the airport.  And about 35 hours and 5 airports later, we’ll be in Greece!

I could definitely do with a holiday, because this week has been even more chaotic than usual.  Work was super busy, of course, trying to get everything completed and/or handed over to colleagues before I disappear for a month.  Plus I had to try and write sufficient notes for myself on the data coding I’m in the middle of for my thesis, so that when I get back I’ll remember what exactly I was doing and will be able to pick up where I left off.

And then, just to add to the long list of “things I must get sorted out before I go”, I developed a minor toothache on Monday, which by Wednesday had developed into a “no, you can’t just ignore it until you get home” sort of pain, which meant I had to get an emergency appointment with a dentist.  Where, after x-ray, it turned out I had an abscess, and was given the option of either a very expensive root canal that the dentist warned might not last more than a year because of previous work done on that tooth, or an only mildly expensive extraction.  So I opted for the extraction.  Which of course means I’ve had to fit salt-water mouthwashes into my schedule multiple times a day to try and get it reasonably healed before I leave (which doesn’t seem that bad, except that the kitchen and bathroom are on different floors in our building, so for the rest of the week I spent a large proportion of my work days going to the kitchen to make up a cup of salt water, then taking it downstairs to the bathroom to rinse out my mouth, then back up to the kitchen to clean out the cup… and repeat every couple of hours).  The good news is that it seems to be healing well – I can’t quite eat on that side of my mouth yet, and my jaw still feels a little bruised, but there’s no real pain now, so I should be fine to fly without needing to resort to my emergency stash of painkillers.

I finished work on Friday, but didn’t exactly spend the weekend relaxing.  Ages ago I’d arranged for Dad to bring the boys up for the weekend, because there were some jobs that needed done around my property that I couldn’t handle on my own (most important being chopping a large branch off a tree in the back yard, which had grown too close to the chimney and become a fire hazard, and the branch was big enough that it would need multiple people hanging off ropes to stop it damaging the roof when it was cut down), and this weekend turned out to be the best option because the boys would be on school holidays, and I wouldn’t be studying (I’m officially suspended from the Masters programme for the next month).  So they arrived on Friday night, with the surprise addition of Niece (who I think had been a bit upset to hear her brothers were coming to visit and she wasn’t, so Dad let her come along too – which led to some very complicated sleeping arrangements trying to fit four extra people into the house – luckily Niece is still small enough that she could sleep on the recliner armchair, but the boys are pretty much adult sized now, so the days of making up beds on couches are numbered…)

It was great having them here, and they worked incredibly hard (even Niece helped out occasionally with little jobs, but mostly I let her just play on my computer to keep her safely out of the way).  We got the offending branch removed, cut back or removed entirely a whole load of other trees and bushes, painted the window trims (rather badly – I let the boys do the first coat, which was a mistake, because I think more paint ended up on the surrounding bricks than the woodwork… they’re great kids, but no practical skills* at all!), cleared the gutters, and seriously cut down my long “when I’ve got some of this mythical spare time” to-do list. I wish I’d thought to take before and after pictures, because the transformation of my jungle of a back yard is incredible.

*Or common sense: Nephew #1 was loading up the trailer with green waste to take to the dump, and left the rake lying in the bottom of the trailer.  So when they got to the dump and needed the rake to pull everything out of the trailer, it had half a tonne of branches on top of it…

As well as being good to get all that work done, I really enjoyed getting stuck in to some physical work myself – after so many months spending virtually all my time sitting at a computer or behind a textbook, it felt almost restful to just be using my body instead of my mind.  And because I’d have felt too guilty letting Dad and the boys work on my garden without helping them, there was no temptation to head into the university and try and squeeze in just a few hours more work before I leave.  Given how good I felt after it all (well, apart from a couple of aching muscles today), I think I should schedule a couple of similar visits over the next year or so, to ensure I get a break from studying occasionally.

They left at lunchtime yesterday, and the rest of the day was spent frantically cleaning (it’s amazing how much mess three children can generate in just a couple of days!) to get the house into an acceptable state for the house sitter, then the evening was spent packing (not quite as last minute as it sounds – I had everything I wanted to take organised, so it was just a matter of throwing it into the suitcase), so this is really the first chance I’ve had to sit down and relax.

But everything is done now, and very soon we’ll be on our way.  I’ll try and post occasionally if I get wi-fi access, but you’ll have to wait until I get home for the full trip report (assuming I don’t do what I so often do and never get round to actually writing it up…). And lots of pretty pictures of course!

The New Year starts now

I’ve actually been home for a few days, but they still felt like holiday days, mainly because Brother and the two boys came back to Christchurch with me.  The trip to Christchurch was their (and my!) Christmas present, because SIL had bought us all tickets to go to a Weird Al Yankovic concert.  The boys are really into his music, whereas for me it was more of a nostalgia thing – I used to listen to him back in the 80s, but didn’t even know he was still making music. The boys quickly educated me though, playing his CDs to catch me up on the last 30-odd years.

We drove up on Tuesday night, leaving Alexandra after Brother finished work.  It’s a six hour drive to Christchurch, so we were going to be very late getting in anyway, but it was made even later by stopping to fish near Twizel. Brother wanted to break up the journey a bit, plus I think it was probably the first chance he’s had to go fishing since the Christmas season started.  I couldn’t fish (you need to pay a licence fee to fish in inland waters in NZ, and it wasn’t worth buying me one just for one night), but I entertained myself taking photos until it got too dark, then reading by torchlight while the others fished.  There were definitely plenty of fish around, because we were constantly seeing them rising for insects, but they just weren’t biting. Nephew #1 was the only one who ended up catching anything – a smallish trout.

Luckily Brother is very comfortable with driving through the night (until recently he drove a delivery truck as a second job), because it was after 3 am by the time we reached Christchurch. The boys had slept most of the way from Twizel, but I stayed awake to keep Brother company. So it was a bit of a struggle getting up the next morning. When the boys woke up, I took them to a cafe for breakfast so that Brother could get some more sleep. He met us at the cafe an hour or so later, and we headed into town to the museum, which has an exhibition on of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. It was quite an interesting exhibition – they’d created 3D models of a whole load of his sketches, so you could see how they would have worked. Only a few of them were interactive, but there were computer screens where you could see some of the other models in action, which made it a lot easier to understand what was going on with the more complicated ones.

After we’d finished at the museum and wandered around town for a bit so I could show them the changes, we drove over to Dallington because Brother had to pick something up for the shop. It was quite sobering for Brother and the kids, who hadn’t seen any of the damage in the eastern suburbs before, to see how bad things still are 5 years on. Actually, it’s still quite sobering for me too – I don’t go over east very often, so I forget that the roads are still terrible, and there’s whole stretches of empty land where once houses stood.

We had pneumatic burgers (literally – they get delivered to your table via pneumatic tubes) for dinner at C1, then played tag on the ‘Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers’ sculpture until it was time for the concert.  The concert was so much fun – we were all singing along (well, the boys were – I joined in on the bits I knew :-)) and dancing in our seats, and just generally enjoying every moment of it.  Weird Al was appropriately weird, and supremely entertaining, with costume changes for nearly every song, frequent incursions into the audience, and a really good mix of old and new songs.  I was so glad SIL and Brother decided to include me in the kids’ present, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen to go myself, so would have missed out on a really fun evening.

We tried to find somewhere to go for hot chocolates after the concert, but there’s very little open in central Christchurch at 11 pm on a weeknight (that’s the trouble with demolishing most of the city centre…), so after wandering around for a while, Brother decided to hit the road.  They had to drive back that night, because Nephew #1 has just started his first holiday job, picking fruit at a berry farm, so didn’t want to miss another day of work.  It was still after midnight by the time they got away, so they would have reached Alexandra just in time for Nephew to start work – hope he got plenty of sleep in the car on the way back!

I’d intended to spend Thursday unpacking, cleaning the house, and generally getting things done ready to go back to work next week.  But after two very late nights, I ended up sleeping until nearly lunchtime, so about the only thing I achieved yesterday was taking down the Christmas tree.  But today was much more productive – I got up early and cleaned and finished unpacking, then spent the rest of the day prettying up the ratty old footstool I bought in Alexandra.

I’ve been looking for a footstool to go with my wingback armchair for ages, but haven’t been able to find exactly what I wanted.  But while I was in Alexandra, Mum came across one in a second hand shop.  It was in pretty rough condition, but I reckoned it would look ok after a coat of paint and some new upholstery, so that’s what I did today.


I forgot to take a “before” photo before I started taking it apart, but you get the general idea.


I had just enough of the chalk paint left from painting my side table to paint the legs. They definitely looked a lot nicer after several coats of paint and a finishing coat of beeswax.


When I took the old ugly fabric off the top, I discovered an even older and uglier fabric under it, and then *another* layer of even older and even uglier (and starting to rot – it was falling apart as I pulled it off) fabric under that. It had been recovered so many times it took me forever to get all the staples out.


The finished product. The fabric is a piece of proper silk damask that I bought in Damascus many many years ago, and have been hanging on to waiting for the right project to use it in. Probably using it on my first ever attempt at upholstery wasn’t the most sensible idea, but better that than have it sitting forgotten in the bottom of a trunk for all these years. And anyway, I only used about a quarter of the fabric I had, so now I know what I’m doing (or at least, all the things I did wrong on this one…), I can use the rest for something else.

I think it looks pretty good anyway, especially in its new home 🙂

And with that, I’m declaring my holiday over, and it’s time to get to work. I’ve officially been enrolled for this Masters for a week now, and I’ve only done a couple of hours work on it, so from here on I need to put my head down and get on with it. So don’t expect to hear much more from me until 2017 – I’m going to be busy!

Family portraits

Going home today, but in the meantime I managed to fit a lot into the last few days of my holiday. (Note to vegetarians, vegans, and those of a delicate constitution, you probably want to skip this first paragraph).  First was a hunting expedition on Saturday night. During dinner I’d mentioned to Brother that it was a pity he was so busy (being in retail doesn’t give you a lot of free time over the Christmas period), because otherwise we could have gone out hunting together.  So he suggested we go out for a night shoot (spotlighting for rabbits), and invite Mum’s visitor along too.  It doesn’t get dark until well after 9 here, so it was a very late night (we didn’t get home until about quarter past 1), but we got about a dozen rabbits (and a stoat – they’re a pest that kills native birds, so we always shoot them if we see them, though obviously we don’t keep the meat), and I was relieved to discover I’m still a decent shot even though I haven’t been shooting for years, so I didn’t embarrass myself too badly compared to the guys 🙂 (Actually, according to Brother, I got the shot of the night – a head shot at extreme range.  Total fluke, but I’ll accept the praise anyway :-)) We did see some deer, and thought about shooting one too, but then brother pointed out we’d have to spend another hour gutting and butchering it if we did, and anyway he’s already got a freezer full of venison, so we let them live for another day.

It’s Dad’s 70th birthday later this week, so seeing as I’m heading home, he decided to have a birthday barbecue on Sunday.  I suggested to the kids that we make him a birthday cake, and then SIL suggested we make it a golf cake, so we spent the afternoon making and decorating it. The kids each contributed to the decorations, and although we’ll never be professional decorators, we had a lot of fun, and I think it turned out looking pretty good:


(The weird squiggles on the cake board are a heart and a smiley face – Niece put herself in charge of the writing…)

And once the candles were lit, it looked even more impressive (Brother declared it to be “golfing in the fires of Hell”):

And Dad was greatly amused by it, which is the important thing 🙂

Of course, as we were having a barbecue, it turned out to be the first cold and miserable day after days of intense heat, but that just meant we ate inside, and those in charge of the barbecue had to wear warm coats to cook in.


Venison burgers!

Dad wanted a photo with all the grandchildren and grand-nephews and nieces (well, at least the small selection that were there – as he comes from a family of 11, his total number of grand-nephews and nieces is probably edging close to 100 by now). He may have had a fancy family portrait in mind, but it quickly descended into chaotic laughter, as first Brother decided he qualified as one of the kids and wanted to sit on Dad’s knee, then I handed over my camera to SIL so I could get in on the action too, then one of the smallest members of the family started crying, which set off his sister, and then Brother said something along the lines of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, so he and Nephew #1 started wailing loudly, and the final portrait ended up with everyone either crying dramatically or laughing uncontrollably. Which is as a family portrait should be 🙂

Proof that Brother really is one of the kids: all completely engrossed in a Walking With Dinosaurs movie

So what with cake, photo silliness, tickle battles, and other general chaos, it was a really fun night.

Then last night we finally got to see the new Star Wars movie. In preparation, the kids and I spent the afternoon watching episodes IV-VI, while Niece and I painted (there was no way she would be able to sit through three movies without something else to distract her!). Mum and I had bought some pre-printed canvases from the Warehouse, so it was more of a colouring-in exercise than serious artistic endeavour, but they turned out looking pretty cool (I didn’t manage to get a photo of the ones Niece painted, but they were… colourful 🙂 )

After dinner we headed to the picture theatre. Alexandra didn’t have a theatre for many years, because the town was too small to sustain it, but in the last few years a group of volunteers have been running a theatre out of the back of the museum.  It’s very small, only a few rows of seats, but they still get in most of the big movies, so it’s been doing very well.  But being run by volunteers means not everything goes according to plan – like last night, when we turned up to find the doors locked and everyone waiting outside.  It turned out the projectionist for the previous showing had locked the keys in the office, so the evening volunteers couldn’t get in, and the only spare key was held by the museum’s director, who lives in Bannockburn, half an hour’s drive away.  So we all had to wait while he drove down to Alexandra with the key.

But being small town, nobody was particularly fazed, and we all just stood around outside chatting, and the general feeling was that it wasn’t as bad as the night the projectionist forgot to turn on the projector, so the movie had sound but no pictures…  Eventually the key arrived, and (after a bit more confusion about the tickets, because Mum had bought us vouchers, but whoever sold them to her hadn’t written it down on the right page of the notebook, so the ticket seller couldn’t tick them off on her list…) the 7.30 screening became an 8.30 screening instead.

We all enjoyed the movie tremendously, and talked excitedly all the way back to Mum’s place, where we continued our analysis over hot chocolates.  I’ve already written a first impressions review, but I can say I enjoyed it even more the second time, especially hearing the surprised gasps from either side of me at the crucial moments (I’ve managed to not let slip to any of Brother’s family that I’d already seen it :-)), and doubly especially getting to talk about it with them afterwards.  Totally transported back to being a kid again 🙂