Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 1

Santa's coming!

Santa snack - Aussie style

The frogs in the pond are warming up to sing us to sleep tonight with their croaky carols - nothing as good as Dean Martin or Bing Crosby, but lyrical just the same.

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2009. Thank you for leaving me comments, supporting me with kind words and purchases from the shop, and for the hand of true friendship that so many of you have offered. I will raise my glass to you all tomorrow, and I'm so happy to count you as my friends.

But for now, that's me signing off. I have a hexagon quilt to reacquaint myself with, a garden to get lost in, many laps to swim, a couple of show entries to crochet, and most importantly, some reindeer to feed.

See you sometime in early 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 2

With only two food shopping days left and my pre-Christmas visitors gone, thoughts turn (with alarm) to the menu for Christmas Day.

As there will only be the two of us sitting under the elm tree for Christmas lunch, we've decided to make it a mini-feast of the highlights of Christmasses past.

They can hardly wait

Vegetables in aspic and soggy potato salad served in an icecream container, as in this photo, do not feature in the highlights, thankfully.

We have the cooked tiger prawns on order, ready for picking up on Christmas Eve. A thick slab of smoked ham was purchased at the farmers' market on Saturday. Kipfler potato and boiled egg salad will feature, just so long as I can find a recipe I like, as will hopefully a chorizo and haloumi salad which my brother made a couple of years ago. ( I must remember to call him for the recipe.)

The Christmas pudding has been bought, and now I need to find the time tomorrow between 3pm when work finishes up for the year, and 11pm when the Christmas Eve church service commences to do some final preparations. Easy.

Full belly.

I'm looking forward to full, happy bellies by the end of Christmas Day, and days of prawn breadrolls and smoked ham risotto to follow.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 3

Happiness is ...


Being part of a worldwide Toy Society drop just a few days before Christmas.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 4

A lot of people do it really tough at Christmas - financially, emotionally and physically - and I wish I could do more to help them. Don't we all? Here are some suggestions on what you can do when spreading happiness and joy with a smile and a happy demeanour just aren't enough.

Have you checked out the
ABC giving tree in Canberra? You can buy non-perishable food and/or a gift for a child and deliver it to the studios, where'll they'll distribute the goodies to the Salvation Army. Most of the department stores also have giving trees - such a good thing for those kids who really miss out.

© Copyright World Vision Australia 2008. All rights reserved.

Used with permission. or call 13 32 40.

One of the things I've done some research on this year is the charity gift. It's where you purchase training, animals, supplies or basic human necessities like safe drinking water from a charity, and they send you a card or email you an e-card. You can then give that card to your friends and family, having purchased a gift on their behalf. Some of the charities where you can do this are:

© Copyright World Vision Australia 2008. All rights reserved.

Used with permission. or call 13 32 40.

Some of these sites even have gift registries! Now that beats a Myer gift registry any day, I reckon!

If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 5

One of my favourite things about summer is the smell of ripening tomatoes on the vine.

Ripening tomatoes

Once you've touched them, the smell sticks to your hands, your hair, your nose, your clothes. It's the smell of a hope that perhaps we'll have ripe tomatoes by Christmas Day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 7

Sixteen laps followed by poolmade coffee and homemade rumballs.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 8

One of the things I am looking forward to most this Christmas is the promise of twelve days off work.


Unfortunately I don't get paid for those days off.

But I'll take the good with the bad. That's my philosophy, anyway.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 9

I'm dreaming of a warm christmas,with every christmas card I write.

With every Christmas card I write

Monday, December 15, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 10

It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.

It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas

First fruit cake out of the oven

Ripening nectarine

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 11

Christmas, for me, is all about creating and celebrating and making other people happy.

Washcloths and soap

What is Christmas all about for you?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 12


In this house, Christmas is all about the lights on the Christmas tree.

They get switched on as soon as the first person walks in the door from work, and they don't go off until the last person goes to bed.

Usually that's me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 13

Today it rained.


It's still raining. It can rain all weekend if it likes - I think it would make the weekend perfect for sewing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Countdown to Christmas: 14

There are 14 days to go until Christmas Day. Why am I not panicking? Why do I feel so calm? Is it because I have more time available to me, with not going away this year? I'm not sure, but I am really looking forward to almost two weeks off work.

I am not looking forward to Summernats. No I'm not. But that's for another post.

As mentioned previously, I'm trying to make this a simple, handmade and locally-oriented Christmas. So far it's working, although I'm going to run into strife when it comes to certain book-loving members of the family. I suppose if I shop for books at a local bookstore, that will be OK. Do you think?

So with 14 days to go, I though I might share some of the projects I've been working on. Strangely there has been no rush in doing these. I've been calm, making thing simple for myself, and enjoying every moment of creating. How can this be? This doesn't sound like me. At. All.

Stitched stockings

I have joined
Meet Me At Mike's Christmas stocking stitch-along. I am a terrible embroiderer, but I love doing it. The moment I pick up a needle and thread and put the fabric in a hoop, I feel my blood pressure go down and a feeling of serenity comes over me. There is little talking, just the gentle rhythm of the needle going through the osnaberg. I once stitched my way on the train from the bottom of the West Coast of the USA, all the way to Canada, and back again. I think it might be my favourite thing to do.

Crocheted washcloths

I started my first (ever) washcloth at Tilley's during Monday night's SnB, and have since made two washcloths and started another. I am gifting two of them - along with a bar of lovely soap - tomorrow night at a dinner I am having with friends. I think every woman in my family will also be receiving one for Christmas this year. They are so addictive, and the perfect thing to crochet on the bus - I can make one in a day's commute.

Summer clothes sewing

And finally, some summer clothes sewing. Like
Kuka, I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear. I have boxes and boxes of beautiful summer fabrics, so I've put my foot down and decided to make some clothes. First cab off the rank is a pair of brown linen pants, and a pink blouse. I think I can do it. Here's hoping I don't get distracted between now and autumn.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A list about me

A Meme from Melanie! A fun little list of things I have and haven't done. If it's in bold, I have, if it's not, I haven't.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited The Great Barrier Reef.
5. Stood under the stars in the outback, the real outback – think Uluru. (Does Chillagoe count?)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to the Gold Coast’s theme parks – anyone, you take your pick.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sung a solo.
11. Bungee jumped, jumped out of plane, been paragliding or hang-gliding, hot air ballooning – you get the idea, you’ve been hundreds of metres about earth in a seemingly flimsy contraption.
12. Visited Melbourne.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Had a child. Raised a child. Worked with children.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Been to the Snowy Mountains.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Visited the Brett Whitely studio in Surry Hills, Sydney.
20. Slept on an overnight train or bus.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Been backpacking.
23. Taken a mental health day.
24. Been buried in sand with just your head and toes sticking out.
25. Held a possum, kangaroo or koala – or any other native Australian animal.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Been in a fun run.
28. Been on the Blue Mountain cableway.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Played, or watched, summer cricket.
32. Sailed, kayaked or canoed our beautiful waterways.
33. Seen the Daintree.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Visited an Aboriginal settlement or mission.
36. Learned a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Toured the Sydney Opera House.
39. Tried rock climbing (indoor or outdoor), abseiling or just simple bushwalking.
40. Visit Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art.
41. Been to the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
42. Sunbaked at Bondi.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Broome.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone fishing.
49. Seen Tasmania’s old growth forests.
50. Been to the top of Q1, on the Gold Coast.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Driven the Great Ocean Road.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Norfolk Island.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Guide biscuits.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone jet boating.
66. Visited Port Arthur.
67. Bounced a cheque.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favourite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Australian War Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Federation Square.
74. Been on the Murray River.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Travelled, or climbed, over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Three Sisters at Echo Point, Katoomba.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited St Mary’s Cathedral, in Sydney.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Been to Hermannsburg.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited Parliament House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Saved a pet.
95. Been to the site of the Eureka Stockade.
96. Swum in The Whitsundays.
97. Been involved in a lawsuit.
98. Owned a mobile phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oh Gillian, you’re up with the sun

Look what the clever girls at James Cook University library in Cairns did! (That's my mum in the background.)

Book Christmas Tree

It's already been a busy day here at Casa Quiltingmick. I had a rush of energy late last night which led to a shop update at 1 am. After only a few hours sleep I was up at 7 am and headed for the farmers' market. Back home for a quick cup of tea, and then on the treadly back to the markets to sing with my choir. It's starting to get hot out there!

Now I'm back home again. I'm just going to take it easy for the rest of the morning, and maybe write some Christmas cards. And then it will be on. I'm hosting a Christmas party tonight. Fortunately I made it a "bring a plate, a bottle and a chair" party so there's really not much to do except mow the lawn, light the mosquito coils, and sweep the deck while my mini quiches are in the oven.

And buy some ice for the laundry tub.

And chill my beer.

And decorate the pergola with tinsel.

And warm up the tonsils, as when we sing tonight we'll be competing with the noisy frogs in the pond.

Water Lily

P.S. This stuff is now in the shop.

My creation

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Clear the Decks December

Dr Bones has declared "Clear the Decks December" over on her blog. I've joined in, because God knows I don't already have enough on my plate in December.

For me, clearing the decks means a number of things, including clearing my UFO pile, finishing off those handmade Christmas gifts and cleaning out my linen cupboard. Here's the linen cupboard, and it's a big one - it used to be the shower recess in our bathroom until they plastered it up and punched a hole in the hallway to make room for a door.

PICT2350 PICT2349

Unfortunately when we moved in to this house in 2006, I unpacked things hurriedly. It's a long story as to why and not worth reliving the sorry tale. So this cupboard has been a victim of that horrid time, for a long time. One day when I renovate the bathroom (which is teeny) I'd like to take some of this cupboard back, so it's important to stop using this as the junk cupboard - the place that things go to die. Like preserved lemons and photo albums.

And then there's my UFO list. Less said about that the better, although on Monday night at quilting group* I finished my first jaffa sock.

Jaffa sock

*My quilting group has been meeting for 6 years, I think. For the last couple of years we mostly haven't quilted - we knit and crochet. Trudi's mum came with us on Monday night and commented about the lack of quilting taking place. I replied that I hadn't sewn anything at stitching night since December 2007. Oops. However, we did have Kris Kringle, and I did score a beautiful hand knitted gift from blogless Jacqui. It deserves it's own post.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mini update

Dude! I found my sewing table!

Mini update Mini update

Admittedly it's not a huge update, but I'm keen to not overdo it. My plan is to sew for only an hour a night, and no more, because my physio and massage therapy bills are ridiculous. As in, my health fund stopped paying benefits back in June kind of ridiculous. I love sewing. Love it. But it shouldn't be causing me this much pain.

Hopefully this plan will work. Normally I'd do a big hit of sewing just once a week. I've got a freezer almost full of dinner leftovers, which should give me more time to spend sewing each night, right? Plus the crap TV viewing season has started, so there'll be much less TV being watched unless it's a) the tennis or b) the cricket. And I can listen to the cricket on the radio, so ...

More mini-updates will come soon, including some more Boxes for Sockses and pencil cases.

Pencil case

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Viva Bris Vegas

This weekend I left Mr QM to his tomato stakes and irrigation dilemmas and escaped to Queensland for a short visit.

There was beautful food, good company, and lots of cuddles from the Aunty Chelle Admiration Society (est. 2006; 1 member).

A little cross-country toy drop happened today - details to appear soon! In Paddington, QLD ...

Little Owl drop

... and Ainslie, ACT.

Petal Snooty Bird drop

And yet there is still no shop update to report. The good news is that my back is finally starting to feel better. The bad news is I can't find my sewing table.

Sewing room

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flowers grow but they need rain

It's been raining for 2 days

It's been a wet, blustery, cold weekend here in Upper Downer. It's been so cold I had to find my winter woolies, and the heater has been in use since yesterday morning.

Today is the day the Canadians arrive. Eh. Can't wait! We were going to have a barbie tonight, but we all agreed on the phone last night that it might be a tad, eh, frigid. So something hot, meaty and baked is on the menu for tonight. Sharing fresh cherries for dessert from a bowl on the table might just be replaced by something hot, fruity and baked. With icecream. Mmm. And cinnamon.

Christmas planning is in partial-swing here at Casa QM. For the first year ever, we are spending the Christmas holiday, just the two of us, here in Canberra. I suspect the thought of travelling so far in either direction to our respective families was starting to wear thin. 14 years of thin. It's a lovely time of the year to be in Canberra, so we are making the most of it. And not having to drive either 700 km in one direction or 1400 km in the other direction is rather lovely and is making Christmas very stress free. We have no idea if we will even feel like having a special Christmas lunch, but there will be midnight service on Christmas Eve for both of us, and a box each of Koko Black chocolates to savour in front of the Boxing Day Test.

So, back to the Christmas planning. We only have a few people to buy presents for, but I am so totally over the shopping malls. I'm sick and tired of the commercialism and the excess and the tinny Christmas music. I love Christmas carols - so why do the malls have to make them sound crap? This year I've taken the handmade pledge. I am also resolving to be a Christmas gift locavore, so there will be numerous bottles of local wine gifted. And there may be a
goat or a duck or sewing lessons gifted on behalf of the recipients.

I headed off through the rain to the Handmade Market yesterday. It was wonderful and very inspiring, if not so packed you couldn't move easily from one table to the next (and I was a cranky pants yesterday, so was guilty of telling three girls who decided to stop for a length chat right in front of a very popular stall to move it along and stop blocking the way.) But the good news is I bought a few gifts, including a
Florence Broadhurst canvas as a gift to ourselves for the spare room.

Spare bedroom

PS. In case you're wondering, work on updating the
shop came to a halt due to mechanical failure (i.e. me). There may be an update later this week, but if you were wanting to busy something your best bet would be to put the shop in your blog reader and it will tell you when the shop has been updated.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oh boy

Oh boy. I am so NOT in the mood for blogging at the moment.

But it's a beautiful day here in the nation's capital. The day started with sixteen laps at the pool early this morning - and at one stage Julie and I noticed the time, added on a couple of hours and worked out that our usual swimming partner Susan would be diving in Fiji at that very moment. We were crushed with jealousy, so I swam a few more laps and pretended that there was a lovely Fijian man swimming in the coral beneath us, pointing out the fish and the rays and the little sharks. Just like it was for us in May last year.

The chlorinated water is still on my skin (I'm pretending it's salt). But I'm still not in Fiji with Susan ...


Sewing news:

I made three sunnyboys for Susan to take to Fiji as gifts, and in doing so I found a way of using the reversible fabric that
Ruth bought me in Japan.Sunnyboys for Fiji

And given Mr QM has just gone out, leaving me free to sew (rather than nagging me to do stuff in the garden) I'm going to make some more sunnyboys this afternoon. Hooray!

Crochet news:

I think I failed the dragonscale sock test. Something went wrong, and I don't know what ... but while I contemplate that sock pattern as well as the prawn vomit pattern, I started a third pair.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have ourselves a Winner.
Jaffa socks in progress

Sure it doesn't look like much now, but I think by the time I get to the rippled leg, it will be a little bit va-va-voom.

Handmade news:

If you're in Canberra, get yourself to the Exquisite exhibition and sale at
CraftACT. I went to the opening yesterday, said hello to Olivia and her gorgeous felted pears, and bought a few presents. Even though two of the three recipients don't read this blog, I'm not posting them. So far I've kept to my handmade pledge for this Christmas, and I'm expecting my resolve will be strengthened with the Braidwood Quilt Event and the Handmade Market next weekend. Hooray for handmade! Hooray for the fact I only buy Christmas presents for about 8 people!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A little respect (sock it to me)

A few months ago I flashed my sock yarn stash on this blog. I still can't believe I managed to accumulate that much yarn, let along sock yarn, in the 18 months or so since I returned to Serious Crochet.

So when RoseRed announced that Southern Summer of Socks was back on this year, I jumped at the opportunity to participate again. After all, it gave me an excuse to commandeer some Sunnyboys of my own, and it also brought the sock yarn back out of the closet so I could spend a moment getting *ahem* honest with myself. My aim was to crochet five pairs of socks before April, mainly because I'll be receiving five projects-worth of KnitPicks sock yarn early next year.

Quietly, I hoped I wouldn't be purchasing any more sock yarn for quite some time. But things happen - I suddenly had money to spend on myself again, and I bought some Jitterbug and Malabrigo Sock as a present to myself. And they are lovely, lovely yarns, especially the Malabrigo Sock. Mmmmm...

Malabrigo Sock yarn Malabrigo Sock yarn

The good news is that since I posted the first sock stash photo, I've crocheted three pairs of socks, sold one pair's worth of Patonyle and started another two pairs. I was only going to start one pair, but I came to a grinding halt last night when I looked at the pattern and suddenly got really, really confused. Also the Tofutsies yarn, which I thought was really pretty, had started to remind me of vomit.

Crochet by Faye Clunky Lace socks

So while I wait for courage to contact the designer to ask her what's up, I've started another pair using sock yarn that Bells gave me ages ago. I received the Crochet Liberation Front book the other day, and there's a lovely pattern for Dragonscale Socks. Here's the toe. No dragon scales yet, but they're coming.

Dragonscale socks - in progress

And because I feel the need to be accountable, here's the latest photo of the stash. I really need to stop winding my sock yarn into cakes years before I actually start making the socks. I lose the skein bands and then wonder whether that red is Aracaunia or something else.

Sock yarn stash November 2008

Did I tell you there is enough yarn here for 27 pairs of socks? I didn't? Oops.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

When through the west like thunder rang out the Union's call

Over at SisterSticks, the question "what makes you happy?" was asked. I have a very bad habit of telling people what makes me miserable (destructive friendships, my poor confidence and credit card fraud are the current top of the pops) but I have tried really hard in the last year to focus on what makes me happy. Long and horrid commute to work? The views across the lake, sweet tunes on my iPod and crocheting makes me happy. Chronic hayfever? Well, at least it's warming up and the garden is producing food and the local pool is open again. Severe back pain and migraines? Mmmm. Hard to see the happy in that but I did have an enjoyable conversation with my physio this week.

I've just spent the day with the most delightful group of people doing Really Nice Stuff. My choir was invited to sing at the Queanbeyan Working Life and Folklore Festival today. Imagine a smokey fire, towering gum trees and an old hall under an old grandstand at the showground, it's ceiling clad with Lysaght Orb corroguated iron - the best kind of acoustics to sing in for sure.

A little bit of bluegrass

While we waited to go on stage, we listened to a little group jamming in the hall. More people arrived and joined in.

Love the music

It was so nice to listen to other people's music. These three girls are in the choir with me and are very dear friends - we spent a lovely couple of hours at the Rendezvous Cafe in between gigs, having coffee and gorging ourselves on the biggest schnitzels EVER. They must breed monster chooks in Queanbeyan.


Some of us broke out in dance. Not me. I was too busy crocheting a scarf.

Now for happiness #2. Last night on the bus, 100 metres before my stop, I finished my Red Socks. They make me so happy. Very, very happy.

Red Socks

Project: Red Wollmeise Socks

Pattern: Pebbled Sand by Janet Rehfeldt

Red Socks

Yarn: Wollmeise 100% wool sock yarn in Indisch Rot. Yes, they really are this red. A good commie red and they look pretty good in the strawberry barrel.

Hook: 4 mm bamboo

Notes: Having now made this pattern three times, I think I have the entire pattern memorised. But now it's time to make
something else.

Red Socks

Happiness # 3 is the dinner I made on Tuesday night. I made the spinach and feta pie again, using spinach from the garden, and this time I served carrots, lettuce and broad beans, all from the garden as well. Dinners like this are what make me happy we go to the effort of having a garden.

Dinner, straight from the garden