Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mean Green Evangeline

I finished the scrap-and-solids I was making in greens. It is a simple cross block with a scrap centre and then a checkerboard border. In keeping with the theme of Kinky Renee and Twirly Shirley I called it Mean Green Evangeline. I don't know anyone called Evangeline, so not a pointed naming.

I quilted it all over with one of the repeating patterns I learned in my craftsy class - unusually I think I did it too loose! Normally I like lots of space and not too dense quilting but I think this one could have been tightened up a bit. Maybe I was in a hurry... And the thread held up too without breaking which is such a relief. I still have fingers crossed that my luck will hold.

Late yesterday afternoon number one son and I went up the trig point to see if Canberra was busting out in spring yet. The answer (despite the blossom, and the wattle, and the daffodils) is definitely NO - it was freezing and the wind nearly iced our bones. But it was bracing, and scenic. Look at the length of those shadows - we made it home just as the sun went down. Number one said that you can tell how much time you have until sunset but putting your hand up - every finger width from the sun to the horizon is about fifteen minutes. I never knew this. Aren't children useful?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

This is a great book

Photo from Roderick Kiracofe's website

My husband gave me this book for my birthday - he says he picked it out at random which is amazing,  because I have had my eye on it for quite a while.  I am halfway through it (reading slowly to savour) and it is just as awesome as I thought it might be. The quilts are fantastic - energetic and interesting. The essays are good too - I don't know if I agree with all of them exactly - but that's what you want! So nice to read things that are thoughtful and thought-provoking. I roll my eyes a bit at some of the "by adding a random strip of colour the work is elevated to modern art" because I really think the maker just added a random strip of colour ... but it is certainly making me see these types of quilts in a different way.

And it also makes me feel better about my quilting and my approach of making as many different ones as possible in a way that makes me happy. That is OK to not aim for technical perfection, because there is something better to aim for, and that is soul. Or heart. Or something. This might be why most exhibition quilts leave me cold. And the modern quilts - even though I love modern quilting generally - which take minimalism that extra grey linen step into meh and boring.

Unsurprisingly I am stuffed with ideas for new quilts that I'm trying to batten down while I finish off the ones in train. Except some more crappily executed randomness in my future!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When life gives you lemons...

You make preserved lemons with them! I normally don't preserve stuff - too much like hard work - but we are nearly at the end of a jar of preserved lemons a friend gave us a while back, and I will miss them when they're gone! Just a tiny bit in a salad gives a wonderful salty / lemony kick. So I thought I would try preserving them, given the two big bags of lemons I brought back from the beach last week.

Geez, you can tell I'm not a food blogger. What a carefully staged shot! Anyway, I think I did the sterilising right but you can't really tell until it starts growing some foul mould and kills everyone who eats it. Or not, hopefully. It wasn't too fiddly all things considered and will last for ages, if the ones from our friend are anything to go by (although she is way more competent in culinary matters than I am, so perhaps not a good benchmark).  You have to leave them for at least a month to mature and then I will taste and report back.

I decided to set those coral and grey blocks on point, with pale setting triangles and then another border. I will do another pieced border but I can't quite decide what. I was thinking little churn dashes or shoo flies, but it might be a bit busy and angular. Maybe curves? I will ponder for a while longer.

I had a good week back at work, nice and busy and with a couple of dinners out for my husband's birthday. Number one son had a friend's birthday party on Friday, so we went out as a family on Thursday to the Schnitzel Haus (pretty much like it sounds), but then stopped at a friend's for a coffee (wine) after work on Friday, so ended up going out for dinner again anyway, which meant we could have Thai food, much to the excitement of number two! My eldest child really doesn't like food with any spice or flavour, although he is improving with age. So when he's not in for dinner we go out for Thai and Indian and Malaysian... I don't know how he's going to go backpacking around south-east Asia when he's 19. Banana pancakes? Is that still a backpacker thing?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sneaking off

I snuck off down to the beach for the weekend - after two full weeks of working I was exhausted! I'm hoping it'll get easier, and that it's just the steep learning curve that's making it all so tiring. I am still enjoying it, and I haven't got lost in the building all week (trust me, that's an achievement). But the weekend was a much needed break. Number two son had rehearsals, and number one son wasn't interested, so I went on my own and enjoyed the solitude very much.

The weather was gorgeous - so much warmer than Canberra. There were a few game surfers out there in full wetsuits, but I wasn't at all tempted to jump in. I don't know what this keen family are doing by the creek in their swimmers ... possibly they had just hopped out of wetsuits? The water is freezing. This is as far as I got.

I did do some sewing down there but not a great deal. One of the treats of being on my own is wafting aimlessly from activity to activity whenever I feel like it. Read a book for twenty minutes, go for a walk. Do ten minutes sewing, pick some lemons. Read a book for a while longer, watch half a movie. Have a vodka with lemon, watch trash television. Repeat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Inside addition

I found out where these blocks came from - it's the "inside addition" quilt-a-long earlier this year. I hadn't seen this post - just a picture of a finished quilt - but I made my blocks exactly the same size! Freaky, especially because I only did them that size so I could use 3 1/2" strips from my strip bag. I can't decide whether they should be set on point or flat.

I think on point, but both are nice. The colours look a bit flat and washed out in these photos. They're not in reality, I blame the indoor lighting and oatmeal carpet. Nothing looks bright against oatmeal carpet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The quilt that trialled the thread

I picked a top that's been lurking around for a few months to try the new thread on - my teal and red drunkard's path blocks that I made back in November last year. I really didn't like them but made the top up then put it at the bottom of the pile for quilting; but of course perfect to practice on when you're not sure how the new thread is going to work out.

Like all of them, it looks much better when quilted. And is proving perfectly functional because number one son is lying under it at the moment continuing the Lord-of-the-Rings-moviethon their father foolishly let them start. The problem for me with this quilt is that it is just too scrappy and directionless. I should have done all the circles red or blue and not mixed them up; or mixed them up but done a proper layout not random. Both is just too weird.

I quilted it with big fat floppy feathers, which I thought would be a good thread test. And it was all fine, fingers crossed it works on the next quilt too.... I called it "Aloha from Hawaii" because my husband went to Beijing for a few days last week for work and brought me back this.

Don't get me wrong, it was very delicious and I am greatly appreciative of a present of lovely dark chocolate-covered macadamias ... it's just not entirely what I was expecting.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Enjoying the weekend

A full week of work has made me appreciate the weekend - although two days isn't very long! How will I get done all the things that need doing? This weekend I coped by just ignoring the chores and having fun, which was great, but might not work so well in the longer term. My excuse is that I had a birthday, so deserved some relaxation time. My husband made me a chocolate chip cookie cake - he made lots of choc chip cookies with great hunks of chocolate and nuts in them, then piled them up and glued them together with chocolate icing into a cake shape, and put some candles in it. It was awesome.

Last night number two son and I went to see a local production of Grease - we both loved the movie and know all the songs so it was fabulous to see it on stage. And it was a very good, colourful and lively production that we both enjoyed. I think there could be more musicals in our future - my husband has never really been super interested so it'll be nice if number two son can be my little theatre buddy.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Canberra Quilt Show and Craft Fair. It's the annual exhibition of Canberra Quilters so it was wonderful to see all the quilts -  I recognise a lot of the names even though I'm not a member any more -  and I recognise the styles too! Some quilters have a unique signature style that you can recognise across the room. As usual there were many extremely intricate and beautiful quilts of all sorts of shapes and styles. And as usual the judging was random - I know that a lot of thought and science goes into judging but I never agree with the results! It's half the fun I suppose, making your own picks on what you think are the best and nicest quilts.  The best in show quilt is really amazing, as is the winner in the art quilt category ... if you're interested the full list with photos is here.

And this morning I had book club at the cafe at the National Library, which was extremely pleasant and very appropriate. I didn't take any photos but I should have because it was a lovely morning and the National Library is down by the lake. Yesterday was the same - Canberra at its cold but sparkling best - when I went for my run. There is that hint of warmth that makes you think that spring is just around the corner...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Starting something new

So I'm piecing a new quilt before I've quilted the existing tops....what a surprise. I tried the new thread and it quilted up really nicely - I'm binding that quilt now and I'll show a photo when it's done. I have ordered a heap more of the thread (Rasant  - cotton with a poly core - it seems to be very readily available) and I really really really hope it solves the problems for once and for all. I will let you know.

The new quilt is based on something I saw on the internet - god knows where - I tend to draw up designs that I like because it lets me figure out how to make them and do measurements at the same time. So I can show you the drawing but the inspiration is lost in the mists of the world wide web. I might set the blocks on point - the ones I'm making finish at about 7.5" so it's not going to be a big quilt.

This is my colour palette - greyish and coralish. I will put in some more scraps but these will form the basis, I think.

My new job is going well so far. I worked my first Wednesday today since 2009! And it's no hardship to work, my Wednesdays were normally spent running errands and doing chores rather than actually having fun ... but it is possible that domestic tasks will start to unravel a bit after a few weeks. We will see. And my new colleagues are all very nice, which is a relief, although I have SO MUCH to learn.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Two out of three is just fine

Back in February, when I was facing another long boring year unfolding before me in much the same way as the previous year, I thought I better do something about it, and get some achievements, or at least have a go at them. So I gave myself three goals - one of them was running, and I am happy to say this morning I ran 10 km!! Actually it was 10.7, because that is round the lake twice, and it took me one hour and seventeen minutes. Which is slow, but I didn't stop, so it completely counts. Yay for me.

The next logical step is to download the 10 to 20 km app and start doing half marathons ... but I'm not going to. I still don't really think I'm a runner - I certainly have never enjoyed it, or experienced any dopamine surges or endorphins or whatever you're supposed to get. And after this morning's effort I have some odd pains in hips and ankles that make me think long distances aren't really a long term prospect. I will keep running for exercise though, now I've got the fitness up I would hate to lose it, but the continuous improvement part may be over.

The second goal I had was to get a new job, and it took six months but I started one on Thursday, which is why I'm back full time. It's a sideways move and still in government, but with a different organisation doing completely different things. I loved my old job and worked with wonderful people, but after ten years I could feel myself getting a bit stale and fed up .... so time to move on. I didn't talk much about it on this blog but if you're interested it was doing this. And I wrote myself a farewell in our regular newsletter too (if there's one thing I learned in ten years, it's that if you wait for other people to write the newsletter it'll never get written!). Leaving was sad, but I think the new job will be good, and different, and I really did need a change.

My third goal was to lose weight, so back in February I started on the 5:2 diet where you eat normally for five days and have a very restricted intake for the other two. I chose it because I thought it would fit best for a family - only two days of separate meals rather than all the time - and that part of it was fine, but the rest sucked. I did it for three months, and got used to being ridiculously hungry, and cranky, and having a poached egg for dinner while everyone else had roast chicken ... but I lost about one kilo, which is nothing! For the amount of pain I just could not see the point, so stopped doing it. My BMI is about 28, so I certainly have the weight to lose, but clearly this is not the diet for me.