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 πŸ™‚ )

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 πŸ™‚

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 We’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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ )


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 πŸ™‚
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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰ )) 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰ ).

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 πŸ™‚

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…