Home again (even if I never mentioned I was gone)

Yet again, a long gap between blog posts, mostly because life has been even busier than usual for the past couple of months. Work has been full of big pushes to meet deadlines, and outside of work has been full of social stuff and the usual degree of over-committing myself.

And I spent the weekend in Hobart.  At the BC-AUS Uncon.  Totally amazing weekend, which I will eventually post some videos about, but at the moment all of the raw footage is on my laptop, and my laptop has run out of batteries, and the charger is somewhere between here and Melbourne, because my luggage got lost when I changed flights.  (Well, technically it’s not lost, because AirNZ reckon they know exactly where it is, it’s just a matter of getting it put on a plane to Christchurch… eventually…)

I arrived home on Monday night – or actually, Tuesday morning, because we landed just after midnight, and then I had to hang around baggage claim waiting for my bag to appear, and then hanging around even longer while the lost luggage guy tried to find it on his computer, and then filling out all the paperwork, and then I still had to go through biosecurity and customs and get grilled for even longer than usual about the contents of my non-existent bag, so that they know what to search for when (if?) it does turn up… so it was after 2 am by the time I got home.  Luckily I’d booked annual leave for Tuesday as well…

Except I didn’t get much of a sleep in on Tuesday, because in a fit of enthusiasm a few weeks ago I’d booked to do a class on rag rug making run by an Australian artist who is trying to revive the craft as an art-form.

Despite being tired, it was a really fun class, and (even though, as usual, I was over-ambitious with the size of project I took on) I made a fair bit of progress on a rug:

That’s not the final texture – once I’ve finished hooking in the strips of fabric they need to be trimmed back to make it more carpet-like (although in theory, you can leave them untrimmed – it just gives the final carpet a different sort of texture.  I think with the design I have in mind it will work better trimmed, though).

So, yet another project to add to the works in progress pile…

And talking of works in progress, I did manage to finish one of the two quilts I’m working on for Harvestbird’s children.  This first one, for Harmony, I’m calling “Harmony’s Flying Foxes” (because somehow the flying geese blocks got renamed to flying fox blocks in the process of designing the layout).  I’m really pleased with how it turned out:

The other one, for Millie, is still sitting on my sewing machine half quilted.  Hopefully sometime over the next few weeks I’ll find time to finish it… though I’m going to another craft workshop this weekend, then I’m off to Wellington for a conference next week, and then, and then… yeah, life is busy.

If you haven’t seen it already, here’s part 2 of the video of making the quilts:

And here’s the other videos I’ve posted since my last blog post (which was over two months ago, I’ve just realised!):

A Word Festival trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching:

Lots of random stuff, half of which I think I wrote about in my last blog post:

Walking the Avon Ōtākaro River during the Walking Festival (there have been many festivals lately!):

Even more random stuff:

Update: I’ve just had a call from AirNZ to say my bag is in Christchurch, and they’ll drop it off to me this afternoon. So more videos to come soon!

X marks the cat, and other expenses

So it seems I can either write blog posts, or I can record videos.  Doing either one seems to sap my creative energy for doing the other (or maybe it’s just that doing one makes me forget about the other).  Which is a roundabout way of saying I’ve been even more terrible than usual at keeping up with this blog.  I have been having a lot of fun with YouTube though 🙂

In the meantime, life has been a combination of busy, exciting, and expensive. Especially expensive, and especially this month.  At the same time as various opportunities arose to spend vast amounts of money on cool things, various existing expensive things decided to break and need immediate replacing.

Cool thing number one was that I finally got all my paperwork together to get my passport renewed.  Which was a bit more paperwork than normal, because I took the (some may say sudden and drastic, although I have actually been thinking about it for a couple of years, ever since they announced the law change to make it possible) step of getting my gender marker changed to an X.  I am now officially, at least in the eyes of the Department of Internal Affairs, outside the gender binary!

(Hopefully I’ve successfully blurred/obscured all of the important identity-theft-enabling bits of that photo!)

It actually was much less complicated a process than I expected.  All I had to do was sign a statutory declaration in front of a JP, and then go through the process of a complete new passport application rather than just a renewal.  The most difficult thing was getting the photo done, because you have to use the paper forms (because they haven’t updated the on-line process yet), so I needed to find somewhere I could get old-fashioned printed passport photos, instead of the digital format most places do now (it turns out Post Shops still do them, in case anyone else ever needs one).

It’s hard to describe just how happy I am to see that one little letter in my passport! (Though also a tiny bit nervous about whether it will cause any problems at borders – in theory it shouldn’t, because it’s a perfectly valid passport issued under NZ law, but who knows what border officials will choose to be nit-picky about.  Oh well, I’ll get to test it out in November… which brings us to the next exciting expense…)

The next cool thing was (now that I finally had my new passport so I could) booking flights to go to the NZ-AUS Bookcrossing uncon in Tasmania.  It’s going to be a small, very informal uncon along similar lines to Stewart Island – basically just hanging out together on a (slightly larger :-)) island, doing a few touristy things, but nothing too planned.  Just a long weekend, but I’m really looking forward to it.  Plus I get to add another Australian state to my list of places I’ve visited (only Northern Territory to go…).

The third cool thing is I bought myself a GoPro!  It hasn’t arrived yet, but I should get it in a week or so.  Totally stupid thing to buy when I’d just spent a lot of money on Tasmania (it’s not the cheapest place to get to from NZ – even though it’s closer to NZ than the rest of Australia, there’s no direct flights, so you have to fly via Melbourne), but I’d been looking at them longingly ever since I started playing round with the YouTube thing, and the opportunity came up to save a couple of hundred dollars on one, so it was too good to miss.  So once that arrives, expect me to get even worse at blogging than I am now… (you might as well just give up following me here, and subscribe to my YouTube channel instead)

And then, having spent all that money, the Word Festival programme came out.  And there were so many things I wanted to go to.  And last time, when I managed to miss out on some of the best sessions due to indecision, I told myself that next time I’d just book tickets to everything that interested me, and take time off work if necessary, and see all the things.  So I did.  Including a day-trip to Kaikoura to go whale watching with two whale experts on Tuesday, and something like eight other ordinary festival events between Thursday and Sunday.  Plus I’ve got a few more free events I may go to if I haven’t completely exhausted myself dashing around all the events I’ve booked for.  So it’s going to be a very busy week this week!

And then there were the less fun expenses.  First, my lawnmower died.  Mini-Gwilk, who does my lawns for me, came in looking sheepish one day and said something along the lines of “Um, was I supposed to put oil in the lawnmower or something? Because it’s stopped working, and there’s black smoke coming out.”  Luckily, it didn’t turn out to be *too* expensive to repair, but it was a bit of a pain, because I don’t have a car (and taxis for some reason aren’t keen on carrying dirty old garden equipment in their nice clean cars), so had to beg lifts from friends (many many many thanks, Mr Harvestbird!!!) to get it to the repair place and picked up again afterwards, and the repair place is only open on Saturday mornings, which required a lot of coordination with said friends.  But all was managed in the end, and I now have a nicely working lawnmower (and instructions from repair guy about what to tell mini-Gwilk what not to do next time).

And then, because black smoke is apparently not dramatic enough, I turned on my oven and the fan unit started shooting out bright white sparks and flames.  Cue FutureCat scrambling to switch it off at the wall!  Luckily all of the dramatic stuff was confined to the inside of the oven, so there was no risk of the fire spreading, but it was still pretty exciting for a moment there.  And then depressing, when I contacted my friendly electrician, and he confirmed that it probably wasn’t worth him even coming out to look at it, because I almost certainly needed to buy a new one (and that 18 years is actually pretty old for an appliance).  And then he improved my mood substantially by offering to source a new one for me (and even better, only charge me cost + his time, with no extra markup), which was a great relief, because I really wasn’t looking forward to devoting my entire weekend to trawling through whiteware shops with no real idea of what was good vs what was just marketing hype.  He managed to find me a decent brand (Westinghouse) at trade prices, which even with his time plus the installation cost still cost me way less than it would have to buy retail (and I’d still have had to pay installation anyway), so I was very happy with that, even though it’s an expense I would have rather not had at all (or at least, not this month – though I wasn’t going to wait any longer to replace the oven – even just the couple of weeks I was without it while waiting for it to be delivered was much longer than I ever want to eat microwaved meals for ever again!)

So that was my horrifically expensive August.  I haven’t added up everything I’ve spent this month, and I don’t think I want to!  Oh well, this is why I have an emergency savings account, for times exactly like this. Just hope nothing else expensive happens for a while, so I can top it back up again…


In crafty news, the main thing I’ve been working on are quilts for the two mini-Harvestbirds (who have declared their official internet pseudonyms to be “Harmony” and “Millie”). It started off as a fun idea – I’d design a couple of simple quilts, let them pick the fabrics, and participate in the layout process so they’ll feel like they’d had a hand in the design, and, as a bonus, turn the whole thing into a series of YouTube videos.  I should have remembered that old rule about never working with children or animals though, because things didn’t entirely go according to plan.  Harmony’s quilt went perfectly (despite me messing up my initial calculations for the block measurements) – she was so excited about the idea of being in a YouTube video (suitably anonymised, of course) that I think she would have agreed to anything I suggested.  She was totally happy with the design, with the fabric choices I offered, with everything, really.  All went smoothly, we sewed the first few blocks together, and then after the kids had left, I was able to quickly whip up the rest of the blocks over a lazy weekend. The blocks are now sitting waiting for a free weekend when I can invite the kids over again to help me design the final layout of the quilts.

Millie, on the other hand, was a different matter.  I forgot just how much she has very much her own tastes and opinions on things, so she rejected my first few suggestions, and there was much scrabbling through half-thought-out sketches in my design book before we found one she liked.  Which I then had to turn from sketch into actual design on the spot… which was a fun challenge 🙂  I have to say though, she’s got very good taste – the colour combinations she wanted are going to look amazing, and I suspect I’m going to be very pleased with the finished quilt. The only problem is, it’s an incredibly complex design (it’s one I had in my book as a “one day, when I’ve got time” idea), so it’s definitely not one I’ll get finished in an afternoon.   So far I’ve managed to cut out all the pieces, and sew the 96 (!!!) half-square triangles it needs for the main stars (and that doesn’t include all the snowballed corners I’ll need for the sashing stars).  And I haven’t even begun to sew the actual blocks (other than the one I quickly sewed on the day the kids were here, so she could see what they’d end up like).  Given how busy the next couple of weekends are going to be, part two of the video might not happen for a while.

It is going to be a gorgeous-looking quilt, though:

In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s the video of part one of the process:

In the meantime, I gave the girls another mini-quilt for their dolls, while they wait for their actual quilts. Once again I had one of those practice quilt sandwiches I’d been trying out various FMQ ideas and exercises on (you might be able to identify a few recent projects on there), so I squared it up and stuck a quick binding on it.

I actually reckon it looks not bad for a bunch of random practice stuff 🙂

(Oh, and if you were wondering, no, I haven’t abandoned the Block of the Whenever – I’ve just been distracted by other things. Once I get these two quilts finished, I’m definitely going back to it)


Otherwise, I have as usual been busy with all sorts of interesting things, none of which I can remember off the top of my head right now.  I feel like I’ve been being excessively social this year!

Just this weekend I went to a feminist poetry reading with Harvestbird on Friday night (which was being run by step-sister, so I also caught up with her briefly before the show), which featured some really amazing local poets (Tusiata Avia being the most notable, and also the most incredible to listen to – I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy hearing her perform her poetry).  And then last night I played D&D with Gwilk and some other friends.  I was playing a wizard for the first time ever, which meant a lot of new rules to learn, but was fun to try out – I can see a lot of potential in the character (though I think Thokk will always be my favourite).

And last weekend was another D&D game, plus going out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group, and the weekend before that I went to the Botanic D’Lights festival (see video below) with Lytteltonwitch, and a stash swap, and in between there’s been various work events, and I’m exhausted just writing this, but it’s actually all been a huge amount of fun. I feel like I’m finally figuring out the right amount of social stuff that stays enjoyable without making me want to go and hide in a corner for a few days 🙂

Home!

Actually, I’ve been home for a few days, but DD was down.

I had an amazing time in France (and Spain) – had a million adventures, which I might even get round to writing up one day (yeah, I always promise that, but we know it’s never going to happen…)

I did manage to film a few videos though, so in case you’re not one of my 11 YouTube subscribers (yep, I’m totally famous now!), here they are:

No more sleeps

My bags are packed, my tickets are printed, the house is clean, and now all there is to do is wait a few hours until Lytteltonwitch and her son come to pick me up to go to the airport.  Evening flights do have the advantage of not having to get up at eek-o’clock in the morning to be at the airport on time, but there’s a lot more sitting around saying “Is it time to go yet?  How about now?”

Actually, it’s a good thing we weren’t leaving this morning, because there was a huge storm in Auckland overnight, and they had to shut the airport.  And the first leg of our flight is via Auckland.  Luckily though the winds dropped enough this morning that they re-opened the runways, so all is clear for the flight (though that first flight might be a bit bumpy – there’s a decent southerly blowing in Christchurch as well (and it’s raining and hailing and bitterly cold – winter has arrived with a bang), so I suspect there’ll be an interesting amount of turbulence.)


I’m sure I have been doing all sorts of interesting things since I last posted, but everything seems to have been pushed out of my mind by the whole I’M GOING TO FRANCE thing. I know there was a day of playing Lego with the mini-Harvestbirds (we built a shop for princesses to work in. It sold ice-cream and toffee apples. Because why wouldn’t it.), and I went to another recording of the Nerd Degree with Jacq and their partner (who was one of the panelists, which was cool), and an attempt at a Dog Boy viewing (except the person with the DVDs wasn’t available, so we watched Hot Fuzz instead), and lunch with people, and “we should catch up except I’ve run out of time, so maybe when I get back” with other people, and generally a very busy few days.

Oh, and the Tiniest Cucumber actually grew! Not much, but huge compared to the last photo I took of it. So given that winter is rapidly approaching so it probably wouldn’t get much chance to grow any bigger, and that I’m going away for a month, I decided it was time to pick and eat it.

I can report that:

  1. There was barely enough of it to make a mouthful
  2. It tasted like a cucumber (though a little bitter still – probably needed a bit more sunshine (or at least a greenhouse) to get properly ripe)
  3. It smelt like the cucumberiest cucumber ever – totally amazing!

The other tiny cucumber has also made a brave attempt at growing, but only at one end.  One end of it is still the size it’s been for weeks, but the other end has fattened up and become quite spherical.

I decided to leave it on the vine as an experiment. By the time I get back from France, it will either have grown properly, or the entire plant will have withered up from the cold. But no matter what, at least I’ve proven that, against all likelihood, it is possible to grow a (very small) cucumber from seed in a small pot on the doorstep in Christchurch. Just don’t expect enough for a salad…


My experiment with vlogging seems to have been well received (although I did get a few comments that it was very long – I totally agree! I had to sit through the whole thing many many times while I was editing it, and it was way too long!). I even had two people subscribe to my YouTube channel! (Does this make me a proper YouTuber now that I have actual subscribers? Only about 999,998 subscribers to go before I can give up my day job…).

As a result, I’m going to try and film a few more vlogs (much shorter ones, I promise!) while we’re in France. I found an app that will let me do the editing on my phone (it can’t do as many fancy things as the one I was using on my computer, but can do the basic stuff), so that in theory I’ll be able to edit and upload videos as I go, which means they won’t end up in that infinite pile of travel photos and blogs I’ve never got round to editing/uploading from previous trips. No promises though – I may be having way too much fun just experiencing travel to want to document it. But keep an eye on my YouTube channel just in case 🙂

And for your amusement in the meantime, here’s a video of Parsnips I made while testing out video-editing apps:

So, about that slowing down

I really have been trying to take it a bit easier and look after myself, honestly!  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).  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.  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).  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.  See, resting!

Saturday, however, was a getting things done day.  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.  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.  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).  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.  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.  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.  The psychology of it is brilliant.  The ethics, not so much.)  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  A pleasant end to a very busy day.

Lytteltonwitch had proposed a road trip for Easter Sunday, and texted me to suggest Kaikoura.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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 🙂 )) – 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?

And in other news

Half-square triangles and flying geese aside, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks, both socially and with the final push to get QuakeStudies 2.0 finished in time for the launch. We’ve been working on the upgrade (which is actually a totally new build, and then migrating all 148,000 items across from the old system to the new one) for over a year, but even so, as there always is for any big project, there was a last-minute panic to get it all done. We had a “soft launch” a week ago (which is why I ended up working on Waitangi Day, doing all the last-minute checks to make sure that none of the sensitive material would be accidentally made visible to the public), making the website live but not really telling anyone about it.  Then, after a week to make sure everything was still working properly, and to do some last-minute uploading of new material, we had the official launch on Thursday night.

We’d invited all sorts of VIPs to the launch event, but hadn’t realised when we sent the invites out that it clashed with the opening of a new building on campus, which the Prime Minister was attending, so of course nearly everyone wanted to go to that instead (Jacindamania is still alive and well).  We did get a few city councillors though, plus representatives of the city library and museum, and some of our content providers, as well as a handful of university people, so at least the room wasn’t embarrassingly empty.

In a fit of confidence I’d volunteered to MC the event, so I had that stress added to all the work of getting everything ready for the launch, but I actually (once I got over the initial nerves) kind of enjoyed it.  I managed to remember all the speaker’s names when I introduced them, and had fun coming up with little linking comments after each speech to segue into the next speaker (all that Toastmasters training came in handy). And, before the official speeches part started, I did all the greeting of people as they arrived to the event, and introducing them to other interesting people so they’d have someone to talk to, and other hosty stuff like that!  I was quite proud of my efforts!

Of course, all that pretending to be an extrovert was absolutely exhausting – by the time I got home that night I was completely shattered.  I was very glad I was owed time in lieu for working Waitangi Day, because I only managed a couple of hours at work yesterday afternoon (I’d taken the morning off anyway because I had to be home for the fibre installers) before coming to the conclusion that I was still so tired that I wasn’t really contributing anything useful by being at work, and decided to just give up and go home early.


I was intending to have a quiet night last night (and turned down an invitation to Dana’s to watch more “Dog boy”), but then I got a text from the Gwilks, saying they had a spare ticket to Dungeons & Dragons & Comedians, so did I want to go with them.  I’d tried to get tickets for it when it was first advertised, but they sold out instantly, so of course I said yes!

It turned out to be a fantastic night.  The show was amazingly funny – it was basically just a short D&D campaign played in front of an audience, but all of the adventurers were comedians, and almost all were new to playing D&D, so didn’t really know what they were doing (so, for example, the woman playing a warlock character decided that meant she was Harry Potter… sorry, “Parry Hotter” – completely different 🙂 and kept forgetting she could use spells).  The dungeon master, who did know how to play, let them stretch the rules quite a bit just for the sake of story (and it being funny), and there was a lot of “Yes, and” improv-type stuff going on, which ended, most memorably, with an underground aquarium full of whales, and the big boss being defeated by being down-trowed with a magically-extending 10-foot pole.  Yeah, you really had to be there.  Trust me, it was incredibly funny at the time.

So a lot later night than I intended, but totally worth it!


Going back to last weekend (yeah, this blog post is not at all in chronological order, but neither is my brain at the moment), I went round to the Gwilks’ on Saturday night to play board games.  They had a new game, which I don’t remember the name of, which was sort of a cross between Battleships, Minesweeper, and Centipede, except it was also a team game.  Each team of four people was on a submarine, and had to seek out and destroy the enemy submarine while avoiding being sunk themselves.  Everyone on the team had a role to play: I was the engineer, which mostly involved deciding which critical piece of equipment was going to break down each turn); the captain decided where we moved to (making sure we didn’t cross over our own path, hence the Centipede bit); the Radio Operator listened to the opposing team’s moves and tried to work out from that where they must be on the map; and the First Mate made sure the torpedoes were ready to fire at the crucial moment.  It was a pretty intense game, and needed a lot of cooperation and communication between team members (while not giving too much away to the other team) to keep everything running smoothly.   It was a fun challenge, though.


On Sunday afternoon Lyttletonwitch came round, and we Skyped with MeganH and a few of the other Australian bookcrossers, making plans for our post-convention boat trip (which I don’t think I’ve mentioned here yet – after the Bordeaux convention, a few of us are hiring a canal barge and spending a week cruising down the French canals!  It’s a tough life… 🙂 ).  After much excited planning with the Australians, Lytteltonwitch and I headed into Hagley Park, where the Noodle Markets are on again.  This time they’re on for a couple of weeks, so nowhere near as crowded as last year (plus it helped that it had been raining all day, and was still drizzling lightly, which had put most people off).  It was great – even at the most popular stalls the queue was never more than a couple of people deep (compared to about a half hour wait at some stalls last year!).

Lytteltonwitch paid for all the food, as a thank-you for me having made the Lego quilt for her friend. I don’t think I bankrupted her, but we definitely ate a lot (including, of course, the famous mango drinks served in hollowed-out pineapples which were just as good as last years’).


Talking about Bordeaux, we’ve pretty much finalised the itinerary:

11 April – leave Christchurch, fly via Shanghai to Paris (arrive on the 12th)

12-16 April – spend a few days exploring Paris

16 April – meet up with Skyring and a few other bookcrossers and drive to Bayeux (probably via a few other interesting places)

17 April – drive to St Malo (ditto on the interesting places along the way)

18 April – drive to Bordeaux

19 April – pre-convention trip to Dune de Pilat and Saint Emilion (with obligatory wine tasting, of course – it would be impossible to visit Bordeaux without visiting at least one vinyard!)

20 April – pre-convention tours of the Palais Rohan and Bordeaux’s underground spaces

20-22 April Bookcrossing Convention

22 April – train to either Castelnaudry or Trebes, where we pick up our barge (we’ll find out closer to the time which it will be – it depends on what trips it has been hired for previously)

22-29 April – cruising along the canal either from Castelnaudry to Trebes, or vice versa.  They’re not a long distance apart, so there’ll be plenty of time for stops along the way to explore the towns and countryside we pass through.  The barge even comes with a couple of bicycles in case anyone wants to explore further afield.

29 April – depending on where we end up, either taxi or train to Carcassone, where Lytteltonwitch and I are booked into a youth hostel in the medieval walled city for two nights.

1 May – train to Barcelona

1-5 May – spend a few days exploring Barcelona (we were originally going to head straight to the Spanish border from Bordeaux, and spend a couple of weeks hopping back and forth across the border and exploring the Pyrenees, but then a couple of people dropped out of MeganH’s barge trip, and she offered the places to us, so we decided that sounded like too much fun to turn down, and shortened the Spanish leg of our trip to just a few days in Barcelona).

5 May – train back to Paris

6 May – fly home, via Hong Kong (arriving back in Christchurch 8 May, because of the date line)

Are you jealous yet? 🙂

For Discoverylover (or anyone else who likes really good hot chocolate)

Great news, Discoverylover – I found the recipe!  (For the benefit of everyone else, a bit of backstory: last time I was up in Wellington, Discoverylover introduced me to an Italian restaurant where the food is good, but the real attraction is their hot chocolates, which are thick and rich and just like the ones I had in Venice.  And recently I stumbled upon a recipe for hot chocolate that, when I tried it out, turned out to be almost exactly like the ones they make at that restaurant.  So sharing it here for Discoverylover, but everyone else should try it too, because it is seriously good hot chocolate!)

For 2-3 servings (seriously, you’ll look at the quantities and think this will only be enough for one person, but you want to serve this in very small cups – it’s incredibly rich!):

250ml milk
65g Whittaker’s Dark Ghana (or other very high cocoa content dark chocolate), broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp soft brown sugar

Heat milk gently in a saucepan, but don’t let it get to a boil.
Once it’s warm, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it is all melted.
Return to the heat, and simmer (on a very low heat – it should be only just simmering) for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  It should end up quite thick – not quite to custard consistency, but getting close.
Add brown sugar and stir in until dissolved.
Serve in tiny cups 🙂

It does take a bit of effort to make, but it is worth it!  And if you’re just making it for yourself, you can still make the full recipe – just refrigerate what you don’t drink, and rewarm it the next day – it’s just as good 🙂

PS. I can’t remember where I found this recipe (it was on one of those websites you get to when you randomly follow a link which leads you to another link which leads you to another link, and then you find an interesting-sounding recipe and scribble it down roughly on a bit of paper, and then months later find the bit of paper again and decide to try it out and it turns out to be magic but you don’t know where it came from), and I haven’t really changed anything (other than converting the measurements to metric, probably), so technically I’ve plagiarised it by posting it here.  Apologies to the original chef for stealing your recipe – if I could remember who you are, I’d give you credit, and link rather than repost – sorry!

Being realistic

Remember those Christmassy mini-quilts I was making?  That I was going to give to pretty much everyone I know?  Yeah, they’re still sitting in a pile next to my sewing machine, half-quilted.  And there is no way I’m going to get them finished by Christmas.  As usual, I totally under-estimated how long each would take, and also, didn’t take into account things like being away in Wellington for a week, and perpetual toothache (and then surgery recovery) tiring me out so I wasn’t feeling inspired to sit down at the sewing machine in the evenings, and, of course, the heat, which definitely hasn’t been conducive to spending time in my hot and stuffy little sewing room.

Maybe, if I spent every spare minute between now and Christmas working on them, I could get most of them finished, but I’m already in panic mode at work with a couple of major project deadlines, so being in panic mode at home too probably isn’t the best idea.  So I’ve decided to finish off the one that I was planning on using for a Secret Santa gift (but not stress if I can’t, because I can always run down to Church Corner in my lunch-break and buy something from the $2 shop if necessary), and otherwise just finish them off at leisure, and put them away for next Christmas.

So sorry if you were anticipating getting one – you’ll just have to be patient 🙂


Not having to devote my afternoon to frantically quilting meant that I actually had time to put up the Christmas tree this afternoon (though really, it was almost too hot to do that – it got up to 31° earlier today, so the tree-decorating was interrupted many times for cold drink breaks).  I also had incentive in the form of a new Christmas ornament – Lytteltonwitch and I had dinner at the food trucks in the Square last night, and there was a stall there selling crafts and stuff to support the Cathedral, so I bought a really lovely (and remarkably cheap, given the work that looked like it had gone into it) wooden copy of the old cathedral’s Rose Window (which was destroyed in the earthquakes).

The “glass” in the window is actually an acetate print of part of the original stained glass from the Rose Window (though it’s a bit hard to tell in that photo, with the Christmas tree lights behind it).

I’d also bought a couple of ornaments from the Trade Aid shop in Wellington while I was up there (Trade Aid always has the most interesting selection of ornaments):

And when I pulled out the rest of the Christmas ornaments from under my bed, I realised I had another new ornament, that I’d completely forgotten about, because I didn’t put up a tree last year. It’s one I bought in Venice, from a bookbinding shop we visited, where I was seriously tempted by, but couldn’t afford, their gorgeous hand-bound journals, so bought one of the little paper angels they had on display as a (much cheaper) consolation prize. I’d put it away in the box of Christmas decorations when I got home, and then completely forgot about it, so it was a cool surprise to discover the still-wrapped package tucked in the top of the box when I opened it.

As usual, the tree as a whole is over-crowded, completely uncoordinated, and slightly chaotic, but I reckon it still looks good:

Checking in from Wellington

Yep, I’m back in Wellington again, for another conference. A bit different than the last one though – this time it’s the National Digital Forum, a conference/gathering for people on the technical side of the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector. Somehow I don’t think we’ll be decorating our name tags with glitter and rainbow stickers this time…
I’m going to be presenting at this conference – well, co-presenting – one of the developers who’s been working with us to migrate our archive to a new system and I are going to be talking about the migration. I’ve got the easy half – I just have to talk about the background to CEISMIC (which I’ve done so many times I could do it in my sleep, I reckon!) and why we made the decision to migrate. My co-presenter gets to talk about all the (potentially boring, depending on the audience) technical stuff about how it was actually done.
The conference doesn’t start until tomorrow (Monday), but I came up on Saturday so I could have a weekend in Wellington. The original plan was to catch up with Discoverylover again, but she was away for the weekend (although we’re going to try and meet up for dinner tonight), so instead I’ve had a nice lazy weekend wandering around the city.
My first few hours in Wellington I spent shopping – yeah, it’s not my normal choice for a holiday activity, but the change in season has meant I’ve dug all my summer clothes out of my wardrobe and realised how old and worn out everything is looking, so I really need some new stuff. So, rather than face the horror of the malls in Christchurch, I decided to take advantage of being in a “proper” city that actually has shops in its CBD, and try and find something up here. I wasn’t overly successful – every shop seemed to be full of the same boring pastel palette of pale pink, pale grey, and pale blue, none of which colours greatly appeal to me. I ended up buying a pale blue shirt just so I’d have at least one tidy thing to wear to the conference, and I did manage to find a couple of pairs of jeans, but otherwise completely failed in my mission. Oh well, looks like I’ll either have to make my old clothes last out another season (and hope for a drastic change in the fashion next year), or bite the bullet and succumb to the pastel tide.
Eventually, having seen more pale pastels in one morning than anyone needs to see in a lifetime, I gave up on the shopping concept, and went and sat in a café to read a book – much more my scene!
I spotted a poster for a production of Venus in Furs at the Circa. As I’d missed it when it was at the Court, I decided to see if I could get a ticket. Luckily they had seats left for that evening, so after a quick dinner I went to the theatre. I knew very little about the play, other than it was loosely adapted from Sacher-Masoch’s novel, but I’d heard good things about it. It was definitely worth seeing – it’s emotionally fraught, as you’d expect, but lightened up by just enough comedy to keep it away from melodrama. The actor playing Thomas/Severin (who’d also directed the play, in a nice parallel with the plot…) was a bit disappointing – it was hard to tell sometimes if he wasn’t that great an actor, or if he was just playing a bad actor, but given that he seemed to stumble over his lines a couple of times when he wasn’t in character (there’s a play within the play, so the two actors play both themselves and their characters in the play), I think it was the former. The actor playing Wanda was great though – she transformed herself amazingly between the three characters.
There was a production of Peter Pan on in the Circa’s other stage, so it was a bit disconcerting to emerge from the highly charged ending of the play (which ends with one of the characters tied to a post, humiliated and emotionally destroyed) into a foyer filled with small children waiting for the actors from that show to emerge from the stage door and sign autographs!
(Later that night – just got back from dinner with Discoverylover – great to catch up with her, although we realised it’s only just over a month since we last saw each other, in Stewart Island, so there wasn’t actually all that much catching up to do. We had a good chat, anyway (and ran into my co-presenter, who happened to be having dinner in the same restaurant!))
This morning I decided to try walking up to the top of Mt Victoria (not as impressive a feat as it sound – Mt Victoria is more of a large hill than a real mountain). It wasn’t as long a walk as I’d expected (though it is very steep – I suspect my legs are going to be complaining tomorrow!) – it only took me about half an hour to reach the lookout at the top. There’s great views up there, across the city, the harbour, and out to the airport. It really makes you appreciate what a tiny strip of land the airport sits on when you see it from that angle! It’s quite a busy spot, too, although most people had driven up instead of walked (although I did pass quite a few people on the walking track).
After I left the lookout, I walked further along the track to a former pa site (Maori fortification) – there wasn’t much to see there, other than an information board, but you could see why it would have made a great defensive position. In theory I could have kept following the track all the way out to the south coast, but I didn’t want to end up on the airport side of the hill and have a really long way to get back, so I found a track heading down the Wellington side of the hill and took that instead. It ended up taking me down to Wellington College, where I got a bit lost trying to figure out how to get back to the road without trespassing (there was a rather ambiguous “no unauthorised entry” sign), but a groundskeeper doing some overtime work pointed me in the right direction in the end.
The rest of the day I spent quite lazily – what was meant to be a quick stop back at the hostel turned into falling asleep for an hour, when I made the mistake of sitting down in the patch of sunshine that was lying across my bed… When I eventually roused myself to go out, it was only to find a café where I could sit and read the afternoon away – I am on holiday, after all! 🙂
(Apologies for the lack of photos, by the way – I had to choose between the carry-on bag that fits my camera, or the one that fits my laptop, and as I’m up here to go to a digital forum, the laptop had to take priority. So no photos of the amazing view from the lookout this morning, sorry.)


To go back in time a bit, I spent Friday afternoon (which was Show Day, so a public holiday in Christchurch) at a “Showsgiving” dinner, which is a combined American and Canadian Thanksgiving dinner held on Show Day (I’m sure that was obvious from the name, though, wasn’t it?) It’s the invention of a few of the North American postgrads from the Linguistics department, who were missing their respective traditional holidays, so decided to put on a combined dinner, but picked Show Day (instead of either of the actual Thanksgiving dates) because it’s a holiday. Over the last couple of years it has grown to include most of the Ling postgrads (of many different nationalities), various friends and friends-of-friends from outside Linguistics, so there’s now 20-odd people who attend.
They held it at a community centre in Richmond (right on the edge of the residential red zone – I arrived a bit early, so went for a bit of a walk, and it’s so surreal out there – just crumbling streets and emptiness, with lines of bushes and trees still delineating where property boundaries would have been), which is in a lovely old heritage building that had at various times been a school and a youth hostel.
It was a really fun afternoon, with lots of good food (it was pot luck, so given the variety of nationalities involved, there were many interesting dishes, plus a gigantic turkey!), and it was great to feel like I was part of the Linguistics department again for an afternoon (makes me reconsider my decision not to do a PhD just yet…)
Anyway, have to get up early tomorrow to check out of the hostel and transfer to the hotel the university is putting me up in for the conference (I wasn’t going to pay hotel prices for the extra nights I’m here – the YHA is fine!), before I need to be at Te Papa for the first workshop.

Wisdom is overrated anyway

A week or so ago, I had a toothache.  On a Friday afternoon, of course, because things like toothaches never happen on a day when it’s easy to get a dentist’s appointment.  But I somehow managed to at least get in to see my normal dentist’s assistant.  Who, after a bit of poking and prodding, told me that not only did I have a cavity, as I expected, but that it was in one of my wisdom teeth, and therefore wasn’t going to be a quick filling-and-you’re-done sort of job.  And that there wasn’t really anything he could do on the spot (other than give me a prescription for antibiotics I can get filled if it starts hurting enough that I think it might be infected) but that I’d need to see the real dentist* to discuss what to do about it.

Luckily, the pain eased off again (it’s definitely still there, but it’s just a dull ache that I can pretty much ignore most of the time, and so far have only had to take pain killers for once – did I ever mention my high pain tolerance?), because it was a week before I could get an appointment for the consultation with the proper dentist, and, because I’m going to be away at a conference, I won’t be able to get the actual work done until the end of the month.

And yes, the bad news is I have to get that wisdom tooth out.  And he strongly advised I get the other two** out at the same time.

The good news is, it isn’t going to be quite as expensive as I’d been dreading (it’s always scary when the first thing a dentist asks is “Do you have insurance?”***).  Thankfully, the whole thing, including a couple of minor fillings that hadn’t been bothering me, but which I decided he might as well take care of at the same time, should come in under $1000.  So not cheap, but it could be a lot worse.

And the other good news is that, unlike the last tooth I had out, which was just under local anaesthetic, I’ll be properly sedated this time round.  So hopefully that means I won’t even notice the horrible graunching noises of tooth against bone which are almost worst than the actual pain part.

Still not looking forward to it, though.

*Not that the assistant isn’t a real dentist – according to his card, he has a BDS, and he must be a proper dentist if he can issue prescriptions – but the other dentist, who I think runs the practice, is the one who does all the complicated stuff.

**I had one out many years ago when I lived in London.  The others hadn’t come up yet at that time, so I didn’t bother getting them out at the same time.  In hindsight, I really should have while I was covered by the NHS!

***To explain for the foreigners, although we have free(ish) public health care in New Zealand, that doesn’t apply to dental work.  Some people do opt to take out health insurance (mainly because it allows them to skip the waiting lists in the public system), but in theory you shouldn’t have to… until you get a huge dental bill and then start regretting your choices.


And now, to counteract thoughts of pain, three happy things:

  1. Lytteltonwitch and I have booked our flights to Paris for next year’s Bookcrossing Convention!  It’s suddenly all very exciting and real.  We haven’t booked much else yet (just accommodation in Paris and Bordeaux – we’re still working out the rest of the itinerary), but I’m spending way too much time poring over maps of France (and northern Spain), and practising my very rusty French (and only slightly less rusty Spanish), when I should be doing other things. Who cares, though – nous allons en France!
  2. New World were doing their “Little Gardens” promotion again last month, and I finally got round to starting off the three plants I got (I seemed to have bought very few groceries while the promotion was on, probably because I was away quite a bit). We had a bit of a heat wave last week, so they all burst into enthusiastic life very quickly, but have slowed down a bit now that the weather has returned to normal Christchurch spring-ness. I’m not convinced about the feasibility of growing either cucumbers or watermelons in a pot, especially not in this climate, but it’ll be fun seeing how far they get. And the thyme should at least grow ok, once the weather warms up again.
  3. The rapid approach of Christmas has given me the perfect excuse to break out a new project. Or technically, many smaller projects. I, as usual, have got way too ambitious with my plans for “quick” wee presents, but I’m having lots of fun making them (it may also have been a good excuse to buy a couple of Christmas-y charm packs that were on special at one of my favourite fabric shops…).And so, the production line begins:


    (and experimenting with all the possible colour combinations…)

    I did actually finish one of them off completely, because I wanted to include one in the parcel I send off for the Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange, and I’m running out of time to send it. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out – I was playing some more with contrasting quilting textures, and using the patterns of the pieces to guide the quilting. I don’t think I’ll do the rounded corners on the rest of them though – they were way too fiddly to do the binding on.

    The quilting looks really good on the back, too (and for once, I actually remembered *before* I did the binding to add a label, and some little loops in case the recipient wants to hang it up instead of use it as a mat).