No progress on (any of) the quilt(s), because I’ve been too busy the last couple of days being social and stuff.

Dad came up yesterday, because friends of his were hosting a mini music festival out at Whitecliffs (about 70 km from Christchurch) today.  He’d originally invited me to go out there with him today for the festival itself, but I already had other plans (see below), so plans were changed, and instead I went out there with him yesterday, supposedly to help with the setting up.  But when we got there, everything was pretty much done, except for putting up a couple of marquees that they’d decided to leave until morning in case the wind came up overnight.  So other than helping secure a few guy ropes, we pretty much just sat around chatting.  Which was fine, until I got stuck talking to some guy (a friend of a friend of Dad’s friends, I think) who just wanted to rant about the fact that Christchurch doesn’t have great facilities for campervans (yeah, we’ve had more important things to worry about for the past few years, actually).  I suddenly remembered I had my camera with me, and made an excuse about wanting to photograph the gardens (which were pretty spectacular, actually) so I could make my escape, and very shortly afterwards Dad similarly ran out of patience with boring ranty guy, and decided that I definitely needed a photographic assistant 🙂

As there was no actual work that needed doing, and the rest of the afternoon was threatening to be dominated by boring ranty guy finding more things to complain about (or worse, he’d get onto politics, which I suspect we would strongly disagree on, and I was running out of things to rush off and photograph), so Dad (who hates sitting around doing nothing even more than I do) suggested we go back into town for dinner. I gladly agreed, so we said goodbye to Dad’s friends (and I promised that next year I’d stay for the concert), and we headed back to Christchurch.

I’d been telling Dad about the Friday night food trucks, and he wanted to know if any of them were open on a Saturday night (because last time he ate at anything resembling a food truck was back in the good old pie cart* days). I couldn’t think of any, but we did a tour round central Christchurch checking out the most likely spots to find them (the Commons, the Arts Centre, Re:Start, the Square…), but the only ones we found had already shut up for the night. So we ended up going to Mexico (the restaurant, not the country 🙂 ) instead, for Mexican tapas (yeah, I know, but fusion or something). Really good food, as it always is, but I didn’t read the menu closely enough when we ordered, so ended up eating lamb that had been infused with coffee, and which obviously still contained vast amounts of caffeine (or actually, possibly just a tiny amount, because I’m super-sensitive to caffeine), so I didn’t sleep for most of the night because my head was still buzzing.

* Sorry foreigners, that’s a bit of NZ culture it’s impossible to explain. But try and imagine the greasiest fried foods you’ve ever eaten, served from a caravan late at night after the pubs close, and patronised mainly by drunks, and you’d be getting close to what a pie cart was.

Dad headed back out to Whitecliffs this morning, and I tried to catch up on some sleep (unsuccessfully – I never manage to sleep during the day) before going over to the Gwilks in the afternoon to play Dungeons and Dragons.  They’ve had a game going for a while, and had invited me to join them, but I was too busy with my thesis previously, so today was my first chance to join the game.  I haven’t played since high school, so I was very rusty, and had to keep asking what dice I was supposed to roll when, but it was a lot of fun.  My character is Thokk, a half-orc barbarian, who communes with wolves, goes into a murderous rage whenever friends are threatened, and has a tendency to hit enemies over the head with a large hammer.  Not exactly playing to type 🙂 I decided it would be more interesting to just follow where the dice rolls led when creating my character, instead of picking and choosing to get a character I liked, and Thokk was the result.

I suspect this character is going to end up being a lot of fun to play, precisely because it’s so far from what I normally would choose 🙂

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 🙂

Assorted things

I think Mum is having as much fun with my new patchwork/quilting obsession as I am – she keeps sending me little packages of fabric to feed my ever-growing stash.  Yesterday a parcel arrived from her via Trademe, with this fantastic selection:

None of the pieces are huge, but they don’t need to be for paper piecing, and those nice little patterns on the fabric are ideal.  (Plus I love the name of the trader: ThumpaCat Fabrics 🙂 )  Good find, Mum!

The builder was scheduled to come and fix the eaves on Tuesday, so of course didn’t actually turn up until yesterday.  But the work is finally done, the hole is gone, and the security light is back up.  All that remains to be done now is the painting (which I doubt will happen today, because it’s looking like it might rain), plus I need to get up on a ladder and adjust the lights so that they’re pointing in the right directions again.

It’s the 4th anniversary of the February earthquake this weekend, so Te Papa have launched a temporary exhibition about the earthquakes and their aftermath (there’s also an article about the exhibition in The Press today).  They’ve used quite a lot of material from our archive, which is exciting for our team, because the more exposure CEISMIC gets the better for our long-term funding prospects.  But exciting for me personally is that the curator mentioned to me that a few of my own photographs are included in the exhibition.  So I can now say my photography has been exhibited in our national museum 🙂

The exhibition is only running for a month, so I doubt I’ll get up to Wellington to see it, but Wellington people, make sure you drop by Te Papa and have a look!

Sparkly photos

As promised, a few photos from of the Christmas lights.

Didn’t get as many good photos as I would have liked, but it was very crowded, so finding places I could put down my tripod without getting in anyone’s way, or without anyone bumping into my camera, was pretty difficult, plus I’m not familiar enough with night photography with my camera yet to get really good photos (especially when it’s too dark to see what buttons you’re pushing).  There were a lot more light displays than these, plus rooms full of decorations (the lights are set up on a series of sheds around a courtyard area, and most of them have displays inside as well), but I put my camera away in the end and just enjoyed the spectacle first-hand, rather than have the stress of juggling camera and tripod in a crowd.

A few of my favourite photos from last night

Nobody seemed particularly worried that we appeared to be in the middle of a scene from The Prisoner.

This may have had some influence on our decision to start dinner with cake 🙂

After the belly dancers, an aerobics session (complete with Jane Fonda workout tape), and the crowd starts to join in:

Not long after this I gave up trying to take photos and just joined in myself – everyone was having too much fun to just stand and watch!

Yep, those road cones get everywhere – apparently they even fly.

Street volleyball and extreme hopscotch

A photographic tour of Christchurch

This is what central Christchurch looks like these days – still a mass of cordon fences, road works, half-demolished buildings, and vast open spaces that can feel pretty desolate:

On the plus side, there’s cool artwork (official and unofficial), and a lot of the empty demolition sites have been grassed over, which makes some parts of the city feel quite rural:

This is Latimer Square, of course, so it’s always been grass, but those green areas across the street used to be full of tall buildings.

Neil Dawson’s Spires, sitting in front of the temporary cardboard cathedral, but very much inspired by the old one.

The ultimate yarn bombing!

And after a while you don’t really see the fences and road cones any more.  I took this next pair of photos looking in opposite directions from the same bridge, because in one direction all you could see were demolition sites, while in the other it was a classic Avon River scene and you’d almost never know there’d been an earthquake.  Except when I downloaded the photos, I of course realised that there were road cones and cordon fences in the second scene too – I just hadn’t noticed them, they’re so ubiquitous around here…

Some demolition sites have been completely transformed.  This is a cool “nature play” area – a conservation site crossed with a playground, where kids (and big kids) can explore the little stream via stepping stones and tunnels through the garden, and nowhere is off limits.

Other places are pretty much untouched.  This stretch of river bank still has the large cracks from “lateral spreading”, where the river bank slumped towards the river.

They announced recently that the Forsyth Barr building has been bought, and is going to be refurbished as a hotel.  I’m not sure I’d want to stay in it, given its history (it was the building where the stairways collapsed, so office workers in the upper floors had to be winched out by helicopters (while aftershocks still rocked the building) because they had no way of getting out).  I suppose they’re relying on tourists having short memories…

There were a group of people in suits and hi-vis vests standing on the top of its carpark – I assume representatives of the hotel looking around their new investment.

But of course, it being the end of August, what really caught my eye as I wandered around the city yesterday were the little signs of spring.  Most of the trees are still bare and stark, but if you look closely there’s definitely buds on the verge of bursting into life.  And while the council’s official plantings still have winter poppies and forget-me-nots, there’s illicit daffodils and blossom popping up here and there:

The Botanic Gardens are of course the best place to spot spring’s arrival in little bursts of colour:

The classic koru of an unfolding fern always says spring to me.

For the foreigners, if you’ve ever wondered why New Zealand’s sportspeople wear a silver fern on their uniforms, this is why. It’s in reference to this native fern which has a silver underside to its fronds (even more noticeable when you see it almost glowing under the dark canopy of trees out in the bush).

Across the river, the ultimate sign of spring in Christchurch – Hagley Park’s famous daffodils are starting to bloom.

This photo must have been taken by a million tourists over the years – the band rotunda among the daffodils. And from this angle, you can hardly even see the cordon fencing around it…

Day off

My potential cold remains at bay, so I decided to use my day off to attend a few writers’ festival events.  The first was a talk by psychologist Michael Corballis about his new pop-psychology book The Wandering Mind.  It’s based on the idea that letting your mind wander is actually a good thing, because that’s where creativity comes from.  It was quite an interesting talk, though not really enough so to inspire me to buy the book.  But definitely worth attending though.

After that talk I had an hour or so to kill before the next one I was interested in, so I thought I’d go for a wander for a bit and see what had changed in town (that’s one thing about central Christchurch – it’s guaranteed to look different every time you see it, with buildings still being knocked down, and a (very) few new ones being built).  I had my camera with me, so I was taking photos of random things that caught my eye (I’ll post some tomorrow – it’s too cold in the study tonight to want to sit here long enough to sort through them!).  The weather was just mild enough to feel like Spring really is on the way, and I was enjoying my walk so much that I decided it was much nicer being out in the fresh air than in a stuffy conference room, so I didn’t bother going back for the other talks – I just kept walking, stopped off for lunch in the Re:Start mall, then wandered through the Botanic Gardens (where the daffodils are starting to come out) and up to Riccarton to catch a bus home.  I reckon I walked around for about three hours in the end.

So not quite the day I’d planned, but still a most enjoyable one!

Pretty colours

It’s starting to get a little lighter in the mornings now, and the sun is usually just starting to come up as I leave the house in the mornings.  This morning as I was about to leave I noticed the sky was doing all sorts of pretty colours in the east, so I dashed back inside and grabbed my camera.  I didn’t have time to find anywhere better to stand than the back garden with the view obscured by washing lines and trees, nor to bother with a tripod or to fiddle round with camera settings, and I suspect I missed the best of it, but despite the rush I got one decent photo, plus a couple that were ok once I did a little tweaking of the brightness and contrast.

So many pretties…

A few of the Christchurch Bloggers were meeting up at the Craft Love Fair at Mairehau High last night, so I went along.  I didn’t intend to buy anything, but there was a lot of temptation on offer (and all right, I may have bought a few small things…).  I was a bit braver about taking photos this time of displays that caught my eye (I always feel a bit nervous taking photos at craft markets, in case the stallholders think I’m trying to steal their ideas):

I already have a piece of art by this artist hanging in my hallway, and I was very tempted to add another to the collection – she does such wonderfully bright and joyful paintings. I stopped for a chat to her, and she was showing me the paintings of cats she’s been doing for an SPCA calendar – really amazing.

These wooden blocks are made from wood salvaged from demolished red zone houses. I ended up buying one for our new office at work (Did I mention we’re getting a new office, in the nicely refurbished building next door? We’re moving in next week, and it’s very exciting – no more cracks in the walls!) – seems like an appropriate decoration to have on my desk.

This was another stall using red zone timber, this time to make jewellery and ornaments. There was a gorgeous charm bracelet I was very tempted by, but I didn’t have enough cash on me (though I did make a note of her website…), so I bought a couple of little Christmas decorations instead.

After browsing the stalls for a while I caught up with three of the Christchurch Bloggers (TartanKiwi, Miriam and Squiltz, who I hadn’t met before), and we retired to the food carts to compare purchases over coffee and brownies. It was a lovely mild night after a week of rain, so it was very pleasant sitting outside chatting as the sun set.

In other news, I’m getting a promotion!  I met with my boss yesterday and he confirmed it’s all been signed off by HR, so I should get the formal offer early next week.  Not all of the day-to-day details of what I’ll be doing are worked out yet (because some of it depends on what other people are doing), but it’s looking like quite a bit more responsibility (which I’m both excited and terrified about!), and it comes with a pay rise.  Not a huge increase, but it’s enough to make me a little more confident that I can keep paying the mortgage, at least.

So, lots of excitement coming up at work next week, with new office and new responsibilities.  And most importantly, I’m finally feeling that I’m being properly recognised for the work I’ve been doing.

Nephew #1 made me a new skin for my Minecraft character.  He asked what I wanted it to look like (most players have skins based on their favourite cartoon characters or super-heroes), so I said I wanted a kitten in a tutu like my avatar.

That turned out to be a bit tricky within the limitations of the pixel size, but I think he made a pretty good attempt:

Ok, so maybe she looks more like a farmer in ripped shorts than a ballerina, but I like her 🙂