Family, art, & books

Saw Mum & stepfather briefly on Thursday – they were on their way up to the top of the North Island to SF’s brother’s birthday party, so left the car here rather than at the airport (we’re so close to the airport that it’s generally cheaper to get a taxi than to pay the airport parking fees).

I had planned yesterday to go to the Art Gallery, to see the Ron Mueck exhibition, which I’d realised last week is closing this weekend. Unfortunately, most of Christchurch had the same realisation, and when I got to the gallery I found the queue for tickets stretching across the foyer and out across the courtyard, so I decided not to bother. It wasn’t so much the queueing that put me off, but the thought of how crowded the exhibition would be – trying to catch glimpses of the artworks among the crowds.

Instead, I wandered through the rest of the gallery, which they’ve rearranged lately, organising the artwork by themes rather than by period. It’s kind of an interesting approach, I suppose, but it somehow left me with the impression of the gallery being a bit emptier than usual – there seemed to be much fewer works than I remembered (I know at least a couple of my favourite pieces weren’t there, presumably having been cycled back into storage).

Anyway, it wasn’t a totally wasted trip into town, because I dropped into Coffee Club to restock the OBCZ (which was looking pretty empty after me not going in for a month or so), and while I was there overheard a woman at a nearby table mentioning bookcrossing to her friend, having just seen the sign on the shelf. I introduced myself, and it turned out she was a geocaching friend of lytteltonwitch’s, who’d been introduced to bookcrossing by her, but not been brave enough to release any books yet. She really liked the idea of the OBCZ as a safer place to release books.

She’s since caught the book she picked up from the shelf (Three Gothic Novels), and has joined as lizzybear76. Oh, and we worked out we’d actually met before – somewhere up in the Port Hills when lytteltonwitch and I were out on a bookcrossing expedition and ran into her (and her husband, IIRC?) on a geocaching expedition.

More wobbles

Been back at work for a few days, and already it feels like I never had a holiday at all… all the usual dramas and stresses (semi-substantiated rumours are that we’re in for almost as many redundancies this year as last year). At least we’re still in our nice summer quiet bit, so I can get a lot of work done without too many interruptions.

Biggish aftershock this morning: 5.1 magnitude. It struck at the incredibly annoying time of 6 am, half an hour before my alarm goes off, so not enough time to go back to sleep afterwards (I really wish these earthquakes would be more considerate!). Wasn’t scary enough for me to actually get up and head for the doorway – I’ve been saying that I’m getting so used to these aftershocks that I don’t get out of bed for less than a 5.0, but I’ll obviously have to revise that upwards a bit – I don’t get out of bed for less than a 5.2 πŸ™‚

I’ve had a few good catches lately:


Back before Christmas I was looking for something in my embroidery stash, and came across the pile of half-finished projects I keep saying I’m going to finish before I start any new projects (yeah, right). Anyway, I was inspired to actually get back to work on one of them, and tonight I finished it!

I’ve got no idea when I started it, but I found an entry from 2005 saying it was nearly finished, so at least 6 years… actually, I’ve got a feeling I might have started it when we were still living in the UK, so that would be more like 12 years.

Of course, now that I’ve finished it, I’ve got no idea what I’m going to actually do with it… It’s pretty big, so I can’t afford to frame it (it’ll probably cost a few hundred dollars), and even if I could, I’m not sure where I’d put it, because most of the walls are already full (mostly with bookcases).

Anyone want a picture?


Next door have a nearly-grown kitten who is the cheekiest cat I’ve ever met. Whenever our front door is open (or a convenient window) he’ll just wander into the house, make himself comfortable, and steal George’s food (usually while George is sitting there watching). He doesn’t do it sneakily like most cats would, he just acts like every house in the street is an extension of his own. We try and scare him off whenever we see him, but he just treats it as a game, and runs away only to come back a few minutes later.

I saw him wandering in today, so I picked up the nearest thing to hand (an eraser) and threw it at him. Not only did he not get a fright, but he pounced on it, picked it up in his teeth, and sauntered off home with his prize!

I can’t even go next door and retrieve it, because then I’d have to tell the neighbours I was throwing stuff at their cat…

Went and saw Harry Potter 7 Part 1 (this is getting worse than Shakespeare and all those Henrys) yesterday. I’d actually intended to go on Tuesday, but they’ve only got one showing a day now, and when I got to the theatre they’d sold out (so if they’re still selling out, why have they cut back the number of showings???), so I went shopping instead (lots of sales on, so I bought some work clothes (boring), and some new baking tins (yay! I’m slowly replacing all my baking stuff with silicone, which is much more fun to bake with (no greasing the tins! hardly any cleanup afterwards!), and Farmers had them 60% off – double yay!)).

Anyway, yesterday I got to the theatre a bit earlier, so I was in time to buy a ticket, so I finally got to see the film. Pretty good, but I’m not sure if I liked it as much as the earlier ones (as with the book, there’s so much going on at once it’s a bit hard to keep track), and of course with it being only Part 1 it doesn’t have any sort of conclusion. Might reserve judgement until I’ve seen Part 2 (and probably until we’ve got them both on DVD so I can watch them a few times).

Right, I reckon it’s time to try out the new tins. I can feel a batch of muffins coming on…

Hunter gatherers

The party yesterday went well – loads of friends of Dad’s I haven’t seen for years (and who of course all remembered me, but I was strugling to work out who they were), and of course loads of family (some of whom I was also strugling to identify – I have 30-odd cousins, most of whom now have kids of their own, so I’ve given up on ever keeping track of them all!).

We’d spent all day preparing the food, which turned out great – lots of canapes to start, then barbequed salmon, crayfish (lobster) and venison, then chocolate cake and pavlova to finish. The nephews and I snuck one of the cakes away during dinner and decorated it with candles, to everyone’s delight except Dad’s πŸ˜‰

I had a really interesting conversation with one of my Queenstown cousins – it turns out his daughters have almost exactly the same form of dyslexia/dyscalcia as I do. Then my uncle chipped in to say that he has it too, and he remembered Grandma saying something about having the same sorts of problems. So it looks like as well as inheriting asthma from Grandma I inherited dyslexia from her as well – gee, thanks Grandma, what a great inheritance!

Friends of Dad’s from Christchurch, K&G, are staying with them for a couple of days, so we took them up to Poolburn (think Rohan again… but this time it’s where they actually filmed those scenes). The others were fishing, but as I don’t have a licence (and never have any luck fishing anyway) I took my book, and had planned to sit by the lakeside and read. But instead I got fascinated by some huge yabbies/koura that were crawling around in the water below the rock where I was sitting (the water was very still and clear, so you could see a couple of metres down into it). Most yabbies you get are only about 10 cm long, but they can grow quite a bit bigger, and these ones were big – maybe twice that size. They were too deep for me to catch them, so I just sat and watched them – they’re fascinating they way they move around: most of the time they crawl, but if they’re startled they swim away backwards at great speed by flicking their tails.

Eventually the fisher-people got bored with the non-biting trout, so came over to see what I’d found, and we managed to catch a few of the yabbies by baiting one of the fishing lines with a left-over piece of salami from our lunchtime sandwiches, then once a yabbie grabbed hold of it pulling it up on the line until it was close enough to net.

K&G had never been yabbying before, and were so excited by the process that Dad suggested we go further round the lake to a stream that he knew to be full of yabbies. Another hour or two of wandering up and down the stream bagged us enough yabbies for a wee feed (i.e. about 30 or so – they’re pretty small, after all, and you only eat the tail part (where the big muscles are), so you only get a mouthful out of each one).

Our meal was added to on the way home, when we spotted some early mushrooms on the side of the road. The rest of the way down the hill we were all peering closely at the fields on either side, shouting “stop” at any flashes of white we saw (most of which turned out to be toadstools or puffballs, or just rocks…)

So by the time we got home with our feast we felt like real hunter-gatherers πŸ˜‰

A bag of yabbies, still alive.

While we were waiting for the water to boil to cook them, one of the yabbies kept escaping from the bag and making a run for it across the back steps

Going into the pot.

Cooked yabbies. Like their marine cousins, they turn bright red when they’re boiled.

The final product: the tail meat with shell and “vein” (the polite term for “intestine full of poo”) removed. (We got a lot more than this – I took the photo when we’d only just started shelling them. We actually ended up with a bowl full.)

[PS. Sorry about the pictures – I’ve got no idea why they’re not showing up. It might be this computer, so I’ll try uploading them again when I get home.]

First catch of 2011

Lords of the Golden Horn by Noel Barber: this is one of the books I released way back in 2008 during the filming of the Bookcrossing documentary by the polytech students. It disappeared until it was caught (in the same place I’d released it) last July, and now it’s been caught again. Definitely a worthy first catch for the year πŸ™‚

The last couple of days have been pretty quiet, because I caught my brother’s cold, so I’ve been lying low trying not to aggravate it into bronchitis (which I’m unfortunately prone to). So far, touch wood, I seem to be avoiding it, and I think I’m over the worst of the cold. Good thing too, because I’m staying at Dad’s for a few days – it’s his birthday tomorrow (my father’s going to be a pensioner!) and he’s having a big party. So I’ve spent most of today helping out with the food preparation.

I escaped this afternoon though for one last adventure with my nephews. The last couple of times I’ve been down I’ve created a treasure hunt for them, but this time I turned the tables and suggested they create a treasure hunt (with my help) for their parents to solve. So we borrowed Dad’s GPS and spent the afternoon running around town hiding little slips of paper in various landmarks, with coordinates and hints written on them for the next clue. We finished setting up just as the shop was closing, so we delivered the first clue to brother and SIL, then followed them and neice as they deciphered the clues to the final treasure, which was of course chocolate (it was supposed to be the variety they liked, but strangely enough when I asked Nephew#2 to pick his parent’s favourites when we were buying them, he somehow kept picking out his own favourites instead ;-)). Then it was back to their place for takeaways for dinner (I had warned brother and SIL of our plans, so they had decided not to bother cooking), and a few final additions to the lego city (which has now grown to cover pretty much the entire floor of the boys’ bedroom!). Oh, and utter amazement – niece decided she does like me after all, and came and sat on my knee!

So, a great final adventure with the kids (I’ll see them tomorrow at the party, of course, but I’ll have to pretend to be a grown-up then, and not run off and play with them ;-)).

What I read in 2010

Total = 137 books

January (10)

February (12)

March (11)

April (8)

May (14)

June (10)

July (8)

August (11)

September (7)

October (11)

November (16)

December (19)

What I read in 2009 (150 books)
What I read in 2008 (154 books)
What I read in 2007 (123 books)
What I read in 2006 (140 books)
What I read in 2005 (168 books)

What counts as a book?

What I did in the weekend

First up, the latest batch of bookmarks:

I’m having fun experimenting with all sorts of different techniques (as you can probably tell ;-)).

I ended up going camping last night with brother and his family, and a friend of brother’s (FoB) and his wife (WoFoB). We were camped in total back of beyond up towards Upper Manorburn (think of the bit in the Lord of the Rings films where they first meet the Riders of Rohan – Manorburn is actually in the next range over from there, but it’s the same sort of landscape – dry and tussocky, with the occasional scrubby matagouri to break the monotony. It may sound bleak, but I love it – it always feels like coming home to me to be up in the Central Otago high country.)

Vegetarians and others of a sensitive nature (Mum, this means you!) should look away now. After getting the camp organised (which didn’t take long, because the others had been up there the night before as well – brother had to drive back into town to pick up a few things they’d forgotten so stopped by to see if I wanted to join them) brother, FoB and I went goat hunting. We were supposed to be going out with the farmer whose land we were camping on (goats are a noxious pest around here, so he was more than happy for us to shoot a few!) but he had friends staying with him who insisted on tagging along, and as they didn’t look greatly experienced (and at least one had been drinking), brother suggested that as the party was so big we split up and shoot different valleys (much to my relief – I prefer to shoot with people I trust not to be idiots). So farmer and his friends went one way, and brother, FoB and I went another.

The idiots in the other group turned out to be an advantage to us, because when they found a mob of goats and started shooting they just managed to drive them all out of that valley and into ours, without hitting any themselves. So we did very well, getting 10-15 between us. I even managed to kill two or three (I know I definitely got two, and brother reckons I hit a third (I’m not so sure – I had a feeling I missed, but he said it was limping), but it disappeared over a ridge before I could finish it off) – not bad for my first goat hunt.

We did take some meat off a couple of the younger goats that fell in reasonably accessible locations (the valley we were in was incredibly steep, and it took us about an hour just to walk (or hobble, in my case, after I slipped on some scree and scraped all up the back of my leg on a rock) down into it and back up the other side to get to a good shooting spot, so we weren’t too keen on chasing after the ones that ran a long way before they fell), so we had a prize to take back to camp. We didn’t have the goat meat for dinner though – instead we had a feast of a hare that FoB had shot the previous night, a pile of yabbies (the local nickname for koura, or freshwater crayfish) that the kids and WoFoB had caught in a nearby water-race, and bread that nephew#1 and I cooked in the campfire. And of course it was all finished off with marshmallows toasted over the fire.

(Oh yeah, the sensitive types can probably look again now if you like – the messy stuff is over with…)

Brother had threatened campfire singing, but (thankfully) he had a cold and had lost his voice, so instead we played cards until the wind got too strong, then headed to our tents to sleep. Unfortunately, the wind didn’t die down again until morning, so it was a pretty sleepless night, with the wind rattling and rustling the tents (a couple of times I thought my tent would take off with me in it!) – every time you’d just start to drift off another big gust would wake you up again. It was worth the sleepless night, though, for such a fun time πŸ™‚

This morning SIL, nephew#1, FoB and WoFoB went back out to see if they could get some more goats, while brother struck the camp and I kept the other two kids entertained and out the way. When nephew#2 and I continued our card game from the night before, he turned out to have a natural talent for cards (or maybe it was just incredible luck – I lost count of how many times he was dealt the joker!) and ended up beating me in almost every hand. I’d started out letting him win, but once he’d got the hang of it I ended up playing as if I’d been playing an adult, and he still beat me!

So, I’m now sunburnt, have a sore leg where I scraped it, sore muscles from climbing up and down mountains, and feel like I haven’t slept for a week, but it was a wonderful weekend πŸ™‚

Happy New Year

Ok, so I’m about 9 hours too late, but I was too tired last night once the visitors left. Yeah, I know I said we were going to have a quiet night and probably not even see the New Year in, but plans do have a habit of changing.

I’d offered to cook dinner for Mum and SF, and was just about to make a start on it when Mum got a call from a friend. She and her husband were also doing nothing for New Year’s, and she was feeling a bit down, so Mum invited them round for dinner. There was a bit of a frantic rush to find a way to expand my pasta dish to feed five instead of three, but we managed somehow (mostly due to the addition of lots of salad and bread in accompaniment) and had a lovely meal.

They’d intended to only stay for dinner, but the conversation around the table was flowing so freely that suddenly it was 11.30, so we decided we might as well stick it out until midnight… and beyond… culminating in Mum and I trying to sing all the old Scottish songs and nursery rhymes Granny taught us. I reckon it was getting near to 2 am before I actually got to bed – so much for a quiet night!

Anyway, hope you all had/have a good night, and that 2011 is better than 2010 (I’ll just be happy if those @#%& aftershocks stop in Christchurch!!!)