Party party party

Down to the last few days of work before the Christmas break, and I’m seriously feeling in need of a holiday. What with boss still being away on parental leave, and several big deadlines falling in December, work hasn’t had the usual end-of-year wind-down this year – we’ve just been in full-on busy mode trying to get everything done. Oh well, only three more days until the university shuts down for Christmas, and then I get a couple of weeks off.

And at least there’s been plenty of distraction in the form of many many Christmas parties (one of the perils of working in a large organisation, especially when you’re connected with multiple departments), including two I hosted myself this weekend. First was the CEISMIC team party on Friday night (which grew a bit larger than expected, because we decided to invite a few students and volunteers who are working in our office over the summer – it was a bit of a squeeze fitting everyone into my little lounge, but luckily students are happy to sit on the floor :-)), then on Saturday night what was technically the Bookcrossing Christmas Party, although in reality it has evolved over the years into mostly just I invite a few friends round, whether bookcrossers or not (though I still also open the invitation up to bookcrossing meetup regulars).

Both parties went very well, despite nearly running out of cutlery on Friday night (note for next year: actually count up how many people have been invited before agreeing when someone says, “We really should invite X too”), and failing to provide vegetarian food for the Harvestbirds on Saturday (dinner was pot luck, and in a bid not to over-cater as I usually end up doing, I decided I’d only make nibbles and a dessert, and trust to luck for the mains – which worked to the extent that we ended up with the right *amount* of food, it was just that it was all meat-based. Oops – probably should have been a bit more organised and actually told people what to bring. Of course, they were very gracious about it though, and just filled up on the bread and dips).

Definitely the least stressful party organising I’ve done in ages – I’ve been so busy I didn’t have time to go over the top in preparation, so it was just a matter of making sure the house was clean and doing the minimum possible food preparation (ok, so I did make bread both days, but that’s easy – most of it is just sitting around waiting for the yeast to do its magic), then deciding that anything that wasn’t done obviously wasn’t important 🙂 Having the two parties back to back like that helped too, because most of the preparation I’d done for the first party carried over to the next night – all I needed to do was a quick vacuuming of crumbs from the lounge and whip up another batch of bread, and I was ready to go. I even managed to recycle some of the leftover food 🙂

Which meant that I had time on Saturday to go to the Art Gallery opening! The Christchurch Art Gallery has been closed since February 2011 – at first because they were using it as the Civil Defence headquarters while they were still doing search and rescue after the earthquakes, and then because they discovered damage to the building that needed to be brought back up to code before any other galleries or museums would lend them any exhibitions. So it’s been a long time since we’ve had an art gallery, but they finally re-opened to the public on Saturday morning. Harvestbird and I managed to get there in time to be in the queue to be first through the doors, and it was a very exciting moment. There were no speeches or anything, just lots of happy staff with huge smiles to finally be able to welcome visitors back into their gallery, and lots of happy people pleased to be back.

Like so many things in post-earthquake Christchurch, it’s hard to describe just how amazing it felt to go back into the Art Gallery after all this time. It’s like another little piece of normality being restored to our still-broken city, and oh so exciting. From the looks on the faces around us, everyone was feeling the same way. So many smiling faces (and the odd tear), so many people rushing up to an old favourite exclaiming, “Oh, I remember this one!” We spent so long just drinking in the first couple of rooms that we weren’t able to get around the whole gallery (the guides giving tours were having the same problem – we joined a tour, and about half way round the guide suddenly realised she’d been so enthusiastically telling us everything about everything that she was way behind schedule, so had to race us round the rest of the tour). I had to keep telling myself that this wasn’t my only chance to see the gallery, that I would be able to go back many times and see the rest – they’re not going to suddenly close it down again! I think we’re a little *too* used to impermanence in this city now…

After all that socialising, I had a nice quiet day yesterday, and managed to finish binding all my Christmas quilt projects:

I feel quite productive looking at the finished pile!

(lumpy) White (almost) Christmas

December weather is notoriously changeable in Christchurch, but it’s been outdoing itself this year – the temperature has been going from high 20s to just above freezing and back again in the space of a few days, and yesterday we had two huge storms, with thunder and hail and all sorts of drama.

The first storm was incredibly loud – there was a clap of thunder right over the house that was one of the loudest I’ve ever heard (and which terrified poor Parsnips, who dashed into the tiny space behind my desk and refused to come out for an hour), followed by huge hailstones (well, marble-sized, anyway), which were falling at an angle, so made the most incredible racket hitting the corrugated iron fence that runs along my driveway. With the size of them, I didn’t want to go out and take photos while they were falling, and they melted pretty fast, so I didn’t get any decent photos, but I did capture a small drift developing against the fence (ignore the unmown grass…)

The second storm, an hour or two later, wasn’t as impressive, but it still dumped quite a lot of hail (and re-terrorised poor Parsnips, who was just starting to cautiously emerge from her hiding spot).

The storms must have been moving pretty fast, too, because I got an email from Mum at about half past 10 saying they’d just had thunder and hail in Alexandra, and it hit Christchurch less than three hours later. It’s roughly 320 km as the crow flies from Alexandra to Christchurch, so assuming it was the same storm, that means the front must have been travelling at around 100 km/h. Pretty impressive!

Somewhere over the last couple of weeks I did get around to putting up my Christmas tree, but I forgot to take photos at the time. So, to rectify that:

We’ve put our Christmas “tree” up at work, too – or at least decorated our door. There’s photos on our blog.

On Friday evening, Lytteltonwitch and I went out to Shands Road to see the lights. The Press had been making a big deal of the lights, saying they were completely redesigned from last year, but it turned out there were only a few small changes here and there. I was glad I hadn’t bothered to take my camera this time, because the photos would have all looked the same as last year’s. It was still interesting though, because we went out a little earlier this year, so got there while it was still light enough to see the structures holding up the lights, so it was cool to see how it was all done (and had the bonus that it was still early enough to get a park quite near the lights – last year we had to walk for miles!). Plus it was worth the entry fee just to see Lytteltonwitch, who claims to love spiders, be scared out of her skin by a mechanical spider that jumped out at her from one of the displays (for some unknown reason they always have a Halloween-themed display in amongst the Christmas lights, even though it doesn’t open until December, well after Halloween), while I was completely unfazed by it – though her scream did make me jump! I don’t think we’ll bother going back again next year though.

Christmas-present spoilers again – all that bad weather at the weekend meant I made good progress through my production line of mini-quilts.

Finished binding these two:

And quilted the other stars (though didn’t quite finish putting the binding on):

I’m pretty pleased with how the quilting went on this one – I found a new Christmassy design to try, and, after a bit of practice, managed to get it flowing reasonably well. Here’s a close-up of the back so you can see the quilting a bit better:

While I was googling Christmassy FMQ designs, I was distracted by another project I spotted on this blog – some very clever trees made from half-square triangles. So of course I had to give it a go. And then make a second one, just to perfect the technique (and also because I still needed a couple of presents for work team members). They’re less fiddly to make than they look, so I managed to get them both sewn and quilted on Sunday, so I just need to finish off the binding, and they’ll be done too.

Busy Weekend

This weekend was the last of my totally-booked-out weekends of November, and it was the busiest of all (well, apart from the convention weekend, of course).  First, on Saturday, after a quick attempt to clean the house, I went into town to meet up with Harvestbird and family for the Climate March.  There was a really good turnout (helped I’m sure by the lovely weather), and people of all sorts and ages – from families with small children to the very frail and elderly woman who asked for my help getting to Victoria Square from the bus exchange, because she didn’t know her way around town.  She told me she hadn’t been planning on going to the march, but decided it was important, so she made the effort to get herself into town.

A few random photos from the speeches bit before the march started:

Apart from a bit of mini-Harvestbird grumpiness at such a long walk (which I made even worse by offering to give her a piggy-back: I got her up onto my shoulders and she immediately panicked about how high up it was – the first time in my life I’ve ever been told I was too tall!!! 🙂 ), it was a great march – there was live music along the way, everyone was cheerful and enjoying themselves (despite the serious message being conveyed), and generally fun.  And rounded off nicely by a stop in New Regent Street for Mrs Higgins cookies on our way home 🙂

When I got home, I just had time to whip up a batch of brownies to take as a plate, then it was time to head out again, to a games evening with the Gwilks.  For a change, all the games were ones I’d played before (didn’t mean I was any better at them, but at least I didn’t feel completely lost…)  As always, a fun evening, but a late one.

Then yesterday was devoted to a CEISMIC sewing bee.  Boss and his wife had their second baby a month or so ago, and the team and I were keen to make them another quilt to commemorate the occasion, this time one that we all contributed to making.  But we’ve all been so busy that this weekend was the first time we all had a day free at the same time – and as it was, Rosalee had to leave at lunchtime, because she had something come up, so Lucy-Jane and I had to finish off the sewing on our own.

Although Rosalee and Lucy-Jane are both experienced at sewing clothes, neither had done any patchwork or quilting before, so there was a bit of a learning curve, so some of the first squares they pieced weren’t quite as accurate as the later ones, and you can clearly see the differences between our tastes in the fabric choices for our respective squares, but I think for a cooperative project the end result is reasonably coherent 🙂

Lucy-Jane had a cutesy fabric panel in her stash that worked nicely as a backing, so I quilted and bound it last night (even hand-stitched the binding – the boss better appreciate the sacrifice involved!), and voilà, one baby quilt, finished in record time.

A piece of history

Went to the Whole House Reuse auction last night with two of the CEISMIC team. It was a bit of a last minute thing – we’d talked about going to the auction way back when the project first started and we were archiving the catalogue of parts, but only realised yesterday morning that the auction was actually last night.  So it was a bit of a rush to get tickets etc, but we made it.

There were so many beautiful pieces in the auction!  Everything from large pieces of furniture down to delicate jewellery, all created from materials salvaged from the demolition, and all unique works of art.  Because there were so many pieces, they split the auction between a live auction and a silent auction.  Some of the major pieces in the main auction ended up going for thousands (and were probably worth it, but definitely way outside my budget!), and even some of the smaller pieces ended up in the hundreds (the auctioneers were very skilled, plus the charity aspect got people bidding a lot higher than they normally would), but the silent auction stayed more in my price range, so I stuck to that.

There was one thing I’d had my eye on since I’d seen them in the museum exhibition – Emma Byrne’s End Stacks (it’s lot 41, about half way down the page) – a set of stools/end tables made out of stacked wood. I was really hoping they’d sell them individually (I doubted I could either afford or find space in my house for the entire set!), and almost got my wish, because they had four lots of two stools each in the silent auction. I decided as long as the bidding didn’t get too high I could find a home for two stools, so I picked a lot at random to put a bid on, and spent the rest of the evening checking back as the bids crept up, and trying to keep my bid on top of one of the four lists. As the deadline for the auction got closer, there were four of us hovering around the stools, outbidding each other by a dollar or two at a time. Which would have been fine, except that one guy was obviously wanting four stools, because he kept bidding on two lots at a time. The bids were getting very close to the limit I’d set myself, so I was resigning myself to the fact I’d probably go home empty-handed, when the woman who’d just outbid me turned to me and said “Did you want both stools, or just one?” We quickly established we’d both be happy with just one stool, so decided to team up and split the cost. Which meant that suddenly demand exactly matched supply, all four people were going to get what we wanted, so the bidding stopped (though we all remained hovering, just in case any sneaky last-minute outsiders came in with a new bid (I offered to “accidentally” sit down on the bidding sheet (which was sitting on top of one of the stools) so nobody else could bid 🙂 )). But at last the auctioneer’s assistant came round to collect up the sheets, and we could all celebrate our collective win.

So I got my stool, the one thing in the exhibition I really wanted, and because we’d split the price I only had to spend $121 to get it, so stayed well within my theoretical budget for the evening.  Serious win!

Ok, so $121 might seem a wee bit expensive for a stool, but it’s almost solid rimu (and you can tell when you lift it – it weighs a tonne! Carrying it back to Lucy-Jane’s car was a bit of an effort), and as a unique(ish – the other stools in the set are similar, but each was slightly different depending on the pieces of wood used) artwork, and a really cool part of Christchurch history, I reckon it’s well worth it.  I’m very happy with my purchase 🙂

And breathe…

First term of the semester is over, and I handed my first big assignment in yesterday, so I can pause and relax – well, for a couple of days, at least.  I’ve got another assignment due in three weeks, so I’ll have to work on that over the break.  And of course, I’ll still be work working (which is still incredibly busy), so yeah, about the only thing that changes is that I don’t have any classes to attend for the next two weeks.  But I’m at least trying to have a break this weekend – I’ve purposely left all my books and notes at work, and am so far avoiding the temptation to just pop into the office for an hour to check that one thing (Harvestbird threatened to call security and have them cut off my door access for the weekend, to make absolutely sure I didn’t do any work 🙂 ), so maybe I’ll get a chance to actually relax a bit.  Of course, given how intensely I’ve been working for the past few weeks (I stay late at work (because it’s easier to access the linguistics software I need from there) to study for an hour or two most evenings, plus at least one full working day at the weekend (the rest of the weekend is usually devoted to essentials like cleaning the house, buying groceries, and sometimes even finding an hour or two to catch up with friends)), it’s going to take me most of the weekend to get myself out of total panic I-have-so-much-to-do-and-no-time mode, so I should start feeling semi-relaxed around Sunday night, I reckon, just in time to go back to work on Monday and be right back into it.

But in the meantime, a couple of days of freedom! 🙂

And to make the weekend even nicer, it’s a lovely sunny day after a couple of weeks of rain.  It’s not really warm enough yet to have all the windows open, but I have anyway, just to make the most of that tiny hint of spring in the air.

Talking of tiny hints of spring, look what I spotted in my (rather messy – must give the lawnmower guy a call) lawn yesterday:

Yep, those are tulip leaves!  The lawn may not be the usual place to grow tulips, but that’s because that part used to be a flower bed, but some years ago I gave up on pretending I would ever manage proper gardening and let it all convert to lawn.  I obviously missed a few bulbs when I dug out the plants, because every couple of years something will pop up unexpectedly.  They don’t always survive as far as actually flowering (generally because I forget to warn the lawnmower guy so he mows over the top of them…), but just seeing the leaves is like a promise of spring.

Radio Silence

Despite appearances, I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth.  I’ve just been kind of busy.  Semester started two weeks ago, and it was very much a case of straight in the deep end as far as workload goes.  I’m loving the course though – it’s much more hands-on than the last paper I took (which was all theory all the time).  This one is on linguistic field work – how you would investigate and describe a previously unknown language (which is something “proper” linguists spend a lot of time doing, because there are a LOT of languages out there that have only a few elderly speakers left, so the race is on to document them while we have a chance, both for the benefit of future generations in that culture who might want to revive their language, and because every language adds data that helps us understand how language works overall).  Anyway, that’s what we’re learning to do in this course.

Unfortunately, the department’s budget doesn’t stretch to sending us all off on a field trip to some remote Pacific island, so we’re simulating the experience by having a speaker of a Pasifika language come in to class to work with us.  Her language, Bislama, which is spoken in Vanuatu, is actually reasonably well described in the literature, but we’ve all had to promise not to look up any previous research on it (or even Google it), so that we can have the experience of studying a completely unknown language from scratch.  It’s really fun (in a geeky linguistics sort of way) – we spent the first two weeks getting an idea of the phonology (i.e. which speech sounds are in the language) and collecting some basic vocabulary, and this week we’re going to be working on some of the morphology and syntax (grammar).  Bislama is a “pidgin” language (actually, technically it should be called a creole), which is really interesting, because so many of the words sound almost but not exactly like English (e.g. to say “the cat is in the house”, you say something that sounds roughly like “puss-cat eestap insite long house”), but from what I know about creoles (promise I haven’t broken the rules and looked anything up – this is just general knowledge picked up from previous courses) , there should be some really interesting things going on with the morphology and syntax – and in fact, we’ve already picked up a bit of that just from the few sentences we got while we were eliciting vocabulary (that word “eestap” for example (or it might be two words, “ee stap” – I haven’t figured that out yet) – it’s possibly a copula (like “to be” in English), but it’s behaving kind of oddly and not turning up in other sentences where I would expect it to be.  So I’ve picked that as my first topic for investigation – I’m planning on eliciting a lot more sentences of the “the cat is in the house”, “the cat is on the chair”, “the cat is fluffy”, “the cat is hungry”, “the cat is sleeping”… variety in this week’s class.

Sorry, I’ve probably completely bored you all by now (not my fault – my current bedtime reading is a book called Describing Morphosyntax, so you can’t expect normal human conversation out of me!).  Anyway, in other news, after dragging on forever, we finally got our contract situations (sort of) worked out.  Unfortunately our attempt to get the programme permanently established failed (sort of – it was more of a “not right now” than an actual “no”, so we’re going to try again in a year or two), but they did at least give us decently long-term contracts this time, so I’ve got a job until the end of 2017 at least, and hopefully by then the university will be in a better financial situation so we can try again for permanence.

I can’t remember if I mentioned here that I’d applied for another job as a backup, in case CEISMIC didn’t work out.  I actually got offered the job!  The job offer came at the same time as the news that they wouldn’t be giving us permanent contracts for CEISMIC yet, so I had a few days of soul-searching while I decided whether I wanted to take the safe but relatively boring new job (which would have been a permanent contract), or stay doing what I love with CEISMIC and risk being out of work in a couple of years.  In the end I decided life is much too short to waste on taking the sensible boring path, so I turned down the new job and signed the fixed-term contract for CEISMIC.  I’m certain I made the right decision (though ask me again at the end of 2017 if they don’t renew our contracts…) – if I’d taken the other job I think I’d always be looking back at CEISMIC and regretting having left.

So yeah, I think that’s pretty much all the news.  Work and study, that’s about the entirety of my life right now.  So don’t expect to hear a lot from me here until November-ish.

See you on the other side!

Winning all the things

I decided to take a very long weekend this weekend, because (a) all the stress and uncertainty at work has been very tiring, so a break is definitely in order, (b) my leave is again accumulating to a point that HR will soon start sending me friendly reminders that I really do need to get my balance down, (c) the start of semester is approaching fast, and I’m not at all ready to switch my brain into study mode, so another good reason for a break, and (d) and most importantly, general aversion to having to work on my birthday. As a result, I’m in the middle of four days (plus the weeknd) off – Thursday to Tuesday. So far it hasn’t been totally restful, but it has been most enjoyable.

I did end up going into work briefly on Thursday, but only because before I’d decided to take the day off I’d arranged to meet Judy for coffee at one of the campus cafes, and as I was going to be in the area anyway (because I wanted to drop some books off at the library) it didn’t seem worth rescheduling. It was actually nice to have time to talk properly without having to keep one eye on the clock to race back to work.

I carried on next to Riccarton, where I had a few wee jobs to get done. Again, nice to have the luxury of time to just wander around and look at the shops a bit, rather than racing through in a hurry because I’ve got a million other things to do. I don’t think I’ll ever really enjoy shopping for its own sake, but in small doses it can be pleasant. It also turned out to be one of those shopping expeditions where all the stars align, because literally everything I wanted to buy turned out to be on sale. And some of the stuff that I thought was on sale turned out to be doubly on sale, because it wasn’t only marked down, it was included in a two-for-one deal (like I got two tops (from a proper reasonably expensive shop, not just Farmers (which is turning into the Briscoes of frocks, in its constant sales (how many more parentheses can I nest here?))) that I thought had been marked down from $50-odd to $28 each, but I got them for $28 total!). I was starting to feel like that scene from the Gilmore Girls where Lorelai is justifying her shopping for Luke by saying that everything was a hundred thousand percent off.

Friday was a cleaning and cooking day. I’d invited a few people round for a birthday lunch on Saturday, and they included a fair proportion of vegetarians and vegans, so I decided the easiest (and most weather appropriate) solution was to make soup. Soup can almost always be converted to vegan, by just swapping out butter for olive oil, and using vegetable stock as a base. So I ended up making two vegan soups (carrot and coriander, and pumpkin and kumara), and one that was vegetarian but not vegan (because broccoli and cheese soup really does need to include the cheese). Plus of course I made a suitably decadent cake (because what’s a birthday without cake?). It worked out really well, because I was able to get everything all prepared so that on Saturday morning all I had to do was reheat the soups, and bake some bread to go with them.

The lunch was great – everyone enjoyed the soup, we had an excess of cake (because Rosalee brought along a vegan chocolate cake (which was good (and also much tastier than I’d expected) because I still haven’t figured out how to achieve cake without using eggs, so I hadn’t managed to provide cakey-goodness for the veganly inclined), and Lytteltonwitch brought a cake as well, and played many extremely geeky board games all afternoon (and long into the evening – the Gwilks and Lytteltonwitch stayed for dinner (of leftover soup) so we could have another game or two (or three…)). And best of all, Lytteltonwitch stayed and helped me clean up afterwards, so this morning was blissfully free of major cleaning operations. Life is good 🙂

I’d said no presents, but Lytteltonwitch passed a bookshop on her way here, and couldn’t resist buying me a colouring book of “cool cats” she spotted in the window. They certainly were cool, and the book got passed around a lot during the course of the afternoon, identifying cats (and a few people 🙂 ) they recognised in the drawings. I’ll have to scan some of the pictures and post them here as I colour them in.

In other news, I won a prize in Tartankiwi’s In Flight quilt-along! She has a draw every month or so, and enters the names of everyone who’s sewn that month’s birds. And I won this months’ draw! My prize is some fabric and a few of her patterns – very exciting! She’s added three new birds to the quilt-along – too late for me to add them to my quilt top, but they look really cool, so I might make them anyway, and either put them on the back of the quilt, or on some cushions. Though of course with semester 2 looming I might not have time to get them done for the actual quilt-along – they might have to wait until the summer.

And in other other news, I have a job interview on Wednesday morning. It’s for that job I mentioned that I applied for as a backup, and which I’m not entirely sure I want. So my next few restful days might not be quite as restful as I’d hoped, because I’ll have to prepare for the interview (and worry about what I’m going to do if they actually offer it to me!). I haven’t had a job interview for years – better brush up all my answers to those stock “where do you see yourself in five years?” questions…

Finally, a couple of pretty pictures:

At the Steampunk fair in Oamaru there was someone selling pictures printed onto old book pages. I bought these two, an Alice in Wonderland and a compass printed on dictionary pages (which of course appealed to me 🙂 ). On Thursday I finally got round to buying frames and mounted them on coloured corrugated card. The colours don’t show up very well here, but one’s burgundy, and the other dark green. They turned out really well, so I’ve now got them hanging in my hallway by the entrance to my study.

Being social

It’s been a very social weekend. Actually, more than just the weekend, because on Friday the CEISMIC team spent the day at the NDF Bar Camp, an “unconference” to discuss digital issues in the cultural heritage sector.  Lots of exciting conversations and ideas, and seriously inspiring.  Tiring though, in that way of an event where you’ve got your brain switched on all day. There were drinks afterwards, of course, during which the fascinating conversations continued, but I only stayed for an hour, because I was meeting a few of the Toastmasters women for dinner.

The dinner was fun – lots of laughs (and interesting food – we were at a Vietnamese restaurant, and ordered a banquet, so we got to try lots of dishes we hadn’t tried before).  Quite a late night though.  When we left the restaurant, we discovered the intersection blocked off with a fire engine and two police cars, and police tape everywhere.  Earlier we’d noticed flashing lights outside, and had seen an ambulance come and go, but this was an hour or two later, and the police were still there.  It was dark, so hard to tell what was going on, but just as we were driving away (everyone was most concerned about me walking home on my own, even though we were only a few blocks from my place, so Ade insisted on giving me a lift) I realised what looked different about the dairy* on the corner – there was a car inside it.  According to The Press this morning, the driver had a “medical event” (I’m guessing that means heart attack?) while driving, and had gone straight over the roundabout and into the dairy.

*translation for foreigners: small convenience store/corner shop, mainly selling milk, bread and lollies**.

**another translation for foreigners: sweets/candy/confectionery

I’d planned to have a quiet day yesterday, seeing as Friday had been so busy, but Mrs Gwilk rang to say they had a new board game they wanted to try out, but it needed a fourth person to play, so did I feel like coming round.  So that’s where I spent the evening.  The game was really fun – it was a strategy game based on the Firefly TV series (which I’ve never actually seen, but knew vaguely what it was about which was enough to understand the game), where you had to run trade and/or smuggling missions across an interstellar society, while managing things like crew and fuel, and avoiding raiders and customs officials (if you were smuggling).  The end of the game was very dramatic, with Gwilk and I racing to get to a particular planet, with whoever got there first winning the game.  Unfortunately an unlucky roll when raiders attacked meant I got there just behind him, but I think second place is still a pretty respectable result 🙂

It was another late night though, because the game took nearly three hours, and then, after mini-Gwilk went off to bed, Mrs Gwilk suggested we try another, shorter game (“shorter” being a relative term when it comes to board games), so it was nearly 11 by the time I got home.

Then this afternoon was the bookcrossing meetup.  A lot smaller turn out this time – Rarsberry was at a birthday party, and a couple of the others who normally turn up didn’t show, but we did have a new person, so all was not lost.  It was incredibly busy at the cafe, because the Botanic Gardens were having a special event for Matariki (the Maori New Year celebration), so we were lucky to get a table (well, luck combined with the fact that I spotted some people leaving, so I raced over and bagsed their table – which completely confused the poor person who came to clear away their plates!).  The incredibly long queue to order food wasn’t a problem for a bunch of bookcrossers though – we just took our books so we could read while the queue inched forward 🙂

So yeah, fun weekend, but I am now officially all socialled out.  Pity I’ve got to go to work tomorrow and interact with people…

Balloons and glitter

Still no news on the work front, other than that the VC is currently considering our business case, and hopefully should make a decision before our contracts run out (again…).  I’m not sure if I want him to make a decision quickly just to remove the agony of waiting, or if him taking his time and really considering it will increase our chances.

In the meantime, I’ve put in an application for a new position that’s opened up in another department.  It’s not exactly my dream job (which would be to stay with CEISMIC), but it would be a lot more interesting (and pay slightly better) than going back to my old job, and I think my chances of getting it are pretty strong, so it seemed like a good idea to apply as an emergency backup plan in case our business case doesn’t succeed.  Of course, if they do offer it to me, I really hope it’s not until after the VC has given us an answer, or I’m going to have a very difficult decision whether to accept it or not.  Why is life never simple?

I spent yesterday afternoon at the mini-Harvestbird’s birthday party.  I was a bit apprehensive about spending the afternoon in a room full of 5-year-old girls, but it was actually a lot of fun – they were so completely over-the-top excited about it all. There were balloons, and glitter, and princessy party dresses, and violently-coloured birthday cake, and hundreds-and-thousands sandwiches, and pass the parcel and musical chairs, and I could totally see why mini-Harvestbird declared with shining eyes as the cake appeared, “This is the best day of my whole life!”

I took my camera, mainly so I could take some photos of the mini-Harvestbirds as a belated birthday present for Harvestbird herself.  Most of the photos I took have the other children in them, so I won’t post them here (I got permission from Harvestbird to post pictures of her children, but I didn’t ask any of the other parents).  But a few judiciously cropped photos will give you a taste:

The birthday girl. The party was Frozen-themed (of course), but this Little Mermaid doll was the hit present of the party.

It was also a hit with the minier-Harvestbird, who absconded with it at every opportunity.

“This is the best day of my whole life!”

My presents to the girls (I missed the minier-Harvestbird’s birthday while I was in Oamaru, so I brought a present along for her too) weren’t so exciting as the mermaid doll, but hopefully will at least come in handy: because mini-Harvestbird will be starting school next week, I made them both pencil cases with their initials on, filled with coloured pencils in mini-Harvestbird’s case, and small-child-friendlier crayons in minier-Harvestbird’s.

Some of the sewing is a bit rough round the edges – I was racing to get them finished last weekend – but I was pretty pleased with the overall effect of the patchwork, which was another attempt at the totally random scrappy patchworking technique I used for my hot water bottle.

Having survived the birthday party, I spent the rest of the weekend working on my experimental quilt, and got five more squares quilted:

A single-motif pattern called The Easiest Flower Ever. Dunno if it was the easiest ever (well, maybe the flower itself was, but I messed up the leaves), but it worked nicely as a warm-up to the more complicated patterns.

This one is called Tangle of Lights, and is supposed to be reminiscent of pulling Christmas tree lights out of their box.

Trailing Spirals – a lot less dense than most of the other patterns I’ve tried, so might be nice to use for a really soft and drapey sort of quilt (the closer together your lines of sewing are, the stiffer the quilt ends up).

Flower Power – as you can probably spot, by the same designer as the Easiest Flower Ever and the Happy Blossoms I did last weekend. This was a fun and (mostly) easy pattern – I only got myself stuck in awkward corners a couple of times…

Spider Web – this one was a lot harder than it looks. I just couldn’t get my speed right to be able to control all those little arcs of web, plus keeping a steady outward spiral is very difficult when you can’t entirely see where you’re going (you have a surprisingly limited field of view when free-motion quilting, because you’re concentrating on the tiny area you’re actually sewing, and the machine blocks your view of the rest of the quilt).

If you’ve been keeping track at home, that’s 21 blocks quilted, so there’s only the four corner blocks to go now (which will be the hardest ones, because there’s not a lot of fabric to hold onto, and a huge weight of quilt trying to drag the fabric out from under the needle). Which is good, because I’m running out of patterns that meet my criteria of looks like it will be interesting, but not too incredibly difficult 🙂

Blossoms and Snowflakes

A couple more FMQ squares for my experimental quilt (at this rate, winter will be over before I get it finished…):

This pattern is called Happy Blossoms, and it was a nice fun one to sew (even if I got confused on a few of the flowers) – it flows quite nicely.

And this is The Snowflake, another pattern that’s greatly helped by drawing chalk guidelines (just ignore the few wee places where I veered totally off the lines).  The snowballs were supposed to be randomly placed, but apparently I’m not very good at doing random, because I seem to have ended up with diagonal rows of them.

Other than that, and a bit of working on a wee secret project for an upcoming birthday party, I’ve had a very lazy weekend.  Last weekend was so full-on (as well as the Oamaru trip, I went to Alex’s farewell lunch on the Monday), and then work is still reasonably stressful while we wait for a decision on our future, that I pretty much ran out of go this weekend, and spent a lot of time vaguely mucking around on the internet and watching youtube videos.  Not the most constructive way to use my time, but sometimes necessary.

On Friday afternoon a few of us from work went to visit the Whole House Reuse exhibition at the museum.  Whole House Reuse is an amazing project – they took a redzone house that was scheduled for demolition, and salvaged as much of the material as possible (it was supposed to be all of the material, hence “whole house”, but they found asbestos in the insulation, so had to dispose of that), then asked artists and craftspeople to find ways to reuse the material in creative ways.  The idea being to show just how much material that normally ends up in landfill when a house is demolished is actually still useful.

We worked with the Whole House Reuse team at the beginning of the project to archive their catalogue of all the materials recovered from the house, so we were really keen to see the exhibition of works created from the material.  There’s some really amazing stuff, everything from a whole new building (a 10 square metre “tiny house”) down to jewellery.  There’s some incredibly imaginative uses of material, too, like light-switch casings turned into picture frames.  Hopefully we’ll be getting pictures and documentation from all of the artists to add to the collection in CEISMIC.  There’s going to be an auction at the end of the exhibition, and I’m very tempted to attempt to buy one of the smaller pieces for myself.  They may all end up being way out of my price range, but I’d love to have a part of such a cool project.

After the museum closed, I met up with Lytteltonwitch and we went over to The Commons for dinner.  The food trucks that were at the Square every Friday night over the summer are at The Commons one Friday a month over winter.  It was very cold, and the ground was pretty wet after the rain, so you had to be careful dodging puddles in the dark, but there was a great atmosphere and loads of exciting options for food.  Jan was there with her pop-up tearooms, doing bacon butties and puddings, so of course we had to sample both, and then we were tempted by several of the other stalls, so ended up eating way too much (and I still didn’t get to sample half the things I’d have liked to – I think I would have exploded if I’d eaten anything else, though).

I got to try out the new bus exchange on the way home (only half of it is open, but it’s the half my bus leaves from) – a huge improvement on the temporary one, if only because you get to wait for your bus inside and sheltered from the weather.  It seems a lot nicer than the old one, too, though that might just be because it’s new.  But it felt a lot more welcoming to me, and safer, too (though I’m not sure what exactly was making me feel that).  Nice to finally see one of the many promised anchor projects finally open, anyway.