Sunday, December 30, 2007

Joy to the World

Oh if only! If only the whole world was full of joy. This Christmas, I have been contemplating what life really is all about. What brought this on?? My daughter gave me the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom. I read it in two sittings (or lie downings) and look forward to reading it again. Even before this Christmas I was contemplating why some people think more and more consumberables are going to bring them happiness and joy. You only have to look at the Hollywood tragics to realize this is but a pipe dream. So you can guess what one of my New Years resolutions is going to be and there are about 2 or 3 more resolutions I will reveal tomorrow before going to Brisbane for New Years Eve. We have decided to go down to South Bank to see the fireworks and maybe stroll through the casino and watch some other poor wretches lose a swag load. Not us - we value the dollar too much.
We just like looking at the games, listening to a bit of music, and hopefully, if not too busy, grabbing a bite to eat.
Washing is up to date after our last little sojourn to the Sunshine Coast (which wasn't so sunny), so a little quilting on the Christmas quilt is on the cards. Late afternoon, when it cools down a bit, I may get into a bit of gardening and throw a bit of fertilizer around the place (especially around the roses which are showing the ravages of summer heat).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saving the garden

We live on an acre of land on the outskirts of a regional city, on the Western side of town. Rain clouds don't like it here. They visit, check us out, and move on. The Eastern side of town can sometimes get up to 10 mm of rain and we get but a sprinkle. We had a little rain a couple of weeks ago, but not enough to fully resuscitate our rather extensive garden. We are not mad gardeners, but the previous owners (an elderly English couple) were rabid gardeners. What were they thinking? How did they think they could possibly replicate an English cottage garden on an acre of black, clay soil in a drought-stricken area where rain is very, very occasional? When we first moved in, we got rid of a lot of the ornamental plants which inevitably require pruning, and are water guzzlers, but there is still a lot left, including many roses which also need a fair bit of attention. We prefer native trees and plants and have planted some, but as we slowly get rid of the ornamentals, we will plant more and more natives. They attract the native birds, and of course, are more drought tolerant.

The good news is, that my clever hubby has installed a pump now on the tank down the back. (He is an electrician). The tank has a very meagre amount of water in it from one storm we had about a week ago. Yesterday he christened the "flowing of the water" with a stubby of beer (or two). How good it was to see that H2O flowing out of a hose! We quickly watered our poor drooping tomato plants and a few flowering plants around the house. Eureka!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Samplin' the Puddin'

The plum pudding has been shaved! What to do with the shaved off bit? Think.......Think.........

Came up with a good one. I shaped the shaved bits into a ball, placed it in an oven bag and tied it up very, very, tightly. It went into the crock pot (electric slow cooker) with water coming about halfway up, and I put it on "high" for about 3 hrs. We then sampled it with ice cream and cream for dessert. YUM. I am quite confident now in taking it to the family Christmas knowing that it is a "knock out". Now, I have opened a hornet's nest, in that I want to make a few of these little puds. Will take one to Caloundra where we are spending Christmas day with our daughter, and give one to my sister and husband for her to freeze and enjoy later into 2008 and I will do the same with the third one. Soooooooo, that means a little more time in the kitchen today as I am working (at a real job) tomorrow and socializing the next day. Running out of time.

Last year I decided to do this same pudding and on Christmas Day, decided it would be a good idea to "flame" the pudding with brandy like they do in the flash restaurants. Unfortunately, I did not know the procedure for this, poured the brandy over the pud first, and tried to set it alight. It was a real fizzer. Learnt later you are meant to put the match to the brandy first, and then pour!! Oh yeah! This is me trying to light the cake.

Just went down town to the local P & Q shop and spent a bit of the hard earned. Had to have a tote bag that I saw one of my friends with at quilting yesterday. Will put it under the tree for Santa to give me. Also purchased some red fabric for a Santa wall -hanging for next Christmas. Maybe I better start that straight after I finish "Celebration" quilt, so it will be finished by next Christmas. Also got a gift for a friend, some variegated embroidery thread (that I really wanted myself), and some really cool tape with sticks to itself. You put this tape around your embroidery thread spools to stop the thread unravelling. (Bought one of these for myself also as the glad wrap is not that successful). Also signed up for their cotton patch club and the proprietor was very open to showing me whatever I would like to learn. Now, where will I start? As I didn't have the Santa pattern with me, I will have to go for another visit to her to get the rest of the fabrics because I didn't have a clue how much I needed. Did I say no new projects?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Busy as............

Sewing, quilting etc. is on the backburner at present as we prepare for Christmas. Cookery is on the agenda. The plum pudding was made yesterday, with a little hiccup, but overnight I have come up with a solution. The mixture looked bigger than it did last year - and then I remember I did add lots of more cherries (cause we like cherries), so that would have done it. Weeell, it filled my plum pudding tin to the top, didn't it? A fleeting thought went through my mind "will I scoop a bit out and make a smaller pudding from it"? But, no, that was too commonsensical, I went ahead and boiled the crap out of it (because the recipe says to do that), and of course, it oozed out of the top of the pan. I do my plum puddings in a special plum pudding tin, as I am not fond of them done in the calico. The solution will be to get the darn thing out of the tin, and give it a shave, put it back in, and then boil the crap out of it again on Saturday at the family Christmas get to-gether at my sister's house. Wish me luck!

The Christmas quilt is going now at a snail's pace, so it won't hang on the wall til after Christmas after all. Oh well, I have decided to hang it anyway (whenever it is finished) and it can hang until "Christmas in July". By then, we will have had enough of looking at it.

Once this is completed, I had better get a wiggle on and start my part of the 2008 raffle quilt.

There are projects on my mind for next year - by the dozen. One of them is a bag, called a "bow bag". Have had the pattern and fabric and materials for over a year now, so that will be one of the first UFO's to tackle. Then there is my sister's birthday present, a journal cover. It is half made, only have to do the quilting and embellishing. Number 1 daughter, Rebecca, has asked for a table runner for her new side board which her husband has given her for Christmas. It will take a while to source a pattern and I will have to confer with her at Christmas as to what colours she would like for said table runner.

This is our beautiful "baby", BELLA, a border collie/cattle dog? cross. >

So, that takes me through to March probably, and there will be lots of pleasant distractions in between. A few of us in our quilt group

would like to have another"Strip Pary" in March. This is where everybody pools their strips of fabric (from about 3/4 " to 2 1/2") and
makes a strippy quilt from whatever strip they pick up. There are
rules to the game, and later on I will post the rules -
they are just a bit of a giggle - not serious rules.

Now, back to the kitchen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BROKE but happy

Having just spent a few days in Brisbane with my sister, I am now broke but happy to have got the Christmas shopping completed. It was such fun, but we got in early before the big crowds, so parking and getting around the shopping centre was that much easier than it will be next week when school breaks up. Brisbane was very tropical - hot and muggy one minute and pouring rain the next, and we appreciated the air conditioned comfort of the shopping centres. There was more money spent on ourselves than there was on Christmas presents and my sister announced at the last minute that we were going to do a "secret Santa" at our family Christmas on 22nd Dec. That threw us into a bit of a spin for a while, but it was fun sorting out who was going to buy for whom and then trotting around looking for just the right thing. Boy, we are exhausted and pleased it only happens once a year!

Before we left for BrisVegas, I put the final border on the "Celebration" quilt and even got it quilted in the ditches and the binding put on. Have decided to do a little more machine quilting around the various motifs, as I don't have the time or inclination to do any hand quilting. It's just too hot anyway to be hand quilting. Looks like it will be hanging for Christmas after all. My sister fell in love with it and, of course, wanted one. (She always wants what I've got and I always want what she has). We often end up with the same clothes, and have been known to ring and check what we are wearing before meeting. Anyway, this time, she got a firm rebuke as I am definitely not going to make another one of these. EVER. My dear hubby has gone out and got me three hooks to hang it on and we have picked out the spot. He loves it as well. Fancy spending 4 years on a quilt which will hang up for a few days !! Perhaps I will leave it up until Christmas in July.

This photo is of a wonderful plant we have in a pot in the back garden. It is an orchid cactus and flowers for a very short period of time in late Sept - early October. It is from the group of cacti known as Epiphyllums and these plants originated in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Beautiful eh?

We sampled the gourmet rocky road and it is absolutely scrumptious. Hubby sampled it more than once and if he keeps going I am going to have to make another batch before Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why won't it rain????

Since hubby has got the pipes to the tanks fixed it will not rain. Dark stormy clouds come over.........nothing! It is so muggy, it surely must rain eventually. The sewing room, which is on the North side of the house is way too hot for sewing, so it's back to the dining room table where it all began many years ago. The dining room/family room you see is air-conditioned. I am working on the last border of the Christmas Quilt, which I think I will call "Celebrate" - for more reasons than one. I would love to see it hanging on the wall this Christmas, but don't think it's going to happen! Yesterday I whipped up a batch of "gourmet rocky-road" which hubby and I are going to sample this evening. It has white chocolate, pistachio nuts, craisins, mini marshmallows and shredded coconut. YUM>

I have been an ostrich for far too long, burying my head in the sand, and I now realise how close we are to Christmas and how little I am prepared. I am starting to think I am a Christmas Grinch. (My sister actually called me this last year). The Christmas tree would not have gone up, only hubby got a bee in his bonnet and said we must have it. We won't be here for the big day and who is going to look at it? Only him and I. I think he just wanted to see his present under it.
Back to the sewing machine to finish this darned border and get this damned thing finished.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Life goes on

Modern medical science has once again saved my father. His own Dad suffered from heart disease and for him there was no by-pass surgery, stents, etc. and he died at age 65. My Dad, who is now 79 years of age, (and his brother) have both been able to continue with a better quality of life after receiving this life-saving surgery more than once. This time around, my Dad has had another two stents (angioplasty surgery) insertered into blocked arteries and this has once again, given him another chance. We thank God. Unfortunately, because of the severity of his heart disease, there are ongoing problems with his weakened heart and lungs, but he remains positive.

Work on the quilting front of course has been at a standstill and now with Christmas looming there will be even less production no doubt. I have great aspirations for the New Year however. Look forward to practising my applique skills on the Toowoomba Quilters 2008 raffle quilt and one my "teachers" has given me some excellent instructions in a book by Elly Sienkiewicz entitled "Fancy Applique". The instructions are clear and precise and now I feel it is just practice. Thank you Caity.

The photo I am posting today is a post-card for a swap I participated in for the Queensland Quilters Picnic which was held back in May at a delightful little town called Peachester. Peachester is located in the hinterland of the beautiful Sunshine Coast and it is a tropical paradise. It was a lovely, memorable day, and in 2009 Toowoomba Quilters has been selected to hold the QQ Picnic. Very exciting!
The post card was to depict Australian Wildlife, and I chose the quintessential bird, the Budgerigar (budgie for short), and I called it "Boodiful Budgies". Budgies are more often than not bred and kept in captivity these days, but may be still seen in the wild. Domesticated birds come in all sorts of colours but the wild ones are mostly green/yellow. We don't see them around our area, but we have many other beautiful Australian birds and parrots visit us. Just wish we had the time to sit and look at them more often.
The birds were appliqued mostly on the sewing machine with a little hand embroidery and a little colouring using watercolour pencils. Next year, I would like to pursue more arty type quilting and sewing projects and my mind is racing with techniques on the list "to try".

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Block of the Month at last

Close up of Bottom Section / Close up of Top Section

Here are the photos of the block of the month quilt I have been working on for 4 years (minus one border of pine trees). It was meant to take 12 months and the last block had a little note with it - Merry Christmas. Wonder which Christmas they meant? Each block was very challenging. There were some blocks which are foundation pieced but back to front!!!??!! Now, it is hard enough to do it the right way around, as anyone will tell you who has done FP. In this b of the m they call it FEFP. This stands for "frayed edge foundation piecing" and the seam is on the right side of the work. Grrrr. One just gets one's mind around foundation piecing and they throw this curly one at you. Anyway, by the end of block 12 it was just being mastered. This seemed to be the way with each block. As soon as you got it right it was time to move on and master the next challenge. But, with all this aside, it was a lot of fun to work on. The missing border is a vertical row of the pine tree, but in a darker shade of green. Will post when it is completed. I am taking this to my quilt group's Christmas break-up tomorrow for show and tell.

Would have loved to have had the last border on, but life's vagaries once again interrupted the creative output. My dear Dad decided to have a black out and be rushed into emergency yesterday morning. He is okay, but looks like heart surgery is on the agenda again this year. He just had heart surgery (a stent) in June this year, but this time it seems more to do with heart beat irregularity. He and his wife are consulting with the heart specialist this afternoon, so we will know more by this evening what he is up for.

Our second beautiful daughter has just finished her second year at university studying Musculoskeletal Therapy and has come home to us from Brisbane today to see us and her grandfather.
This blog will probably be in recess for a couple of days now, as the weekend is full on. A trip to the glorious Sunshine Coast (Caloundra) to see our first beautiful daughter and husband, and to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday. Then I will be preparing our quilt club's newsletter to be posted out on Monday. Busy busy busy................

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Musical Nuns and other Rot

What do five singing nuns and a Jew from Fiddler on the Roof have in common? Pretty much nothing I would say after going to a singing Nun show last night. It was all pretty amateur, but it was the local Repretory Theatre and they do their best. Just after half time the lighting man got all mixed up with lights and didn't seem to know what was what. Perhaps he had had liquid refreshments at interval. It brought a bit of light relief, and eventually with a little help from the rest of the cast he got them functioning again. (The lights that is). It made for a very late night and lack of sleep is playing havoc with the head this morning and alas this is my day to work in my 'real job'. Once a week I go out and get paid by someone else. It is a job I tried to resign from back in June, but they keep finding a reason to keep me working there. This job was only temporary for 3 months and I have been there almost 5 months already and they don't look like asking me to leave real soon. Guess I will just keep turning up until they say "enough".
A little, little, bit was done on the long suffering Christmas quilt yesterday. The last border seems to be dragging on and on. There are too many other distractions with Christmas looming ever faster. A friend and I went to "Bush Christmas" yesterday afternoon. This is where art/craft people from the country regions bring their wares to town and try to flog them off to us. There were many beautiful things up for sale, but yours truly went for the food (as usual). Said I was buying it for the dear hubby, We did get some good ideas for our craft stall we have at our annual quilt exhibition though. More about that in a later post. It is something we start working on now, but exhibition time is September.
Will post some photos tomorrow of the Christmas quilt, with or without last border!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Moles in the garden

Our garden at the moment looks like home for several moles. Dear hubby has located many broken pipes which are meant to be feeding our newly installed tank! He digs, repairs, digs, repairs, digs repairs, and really he should get a medal for perseverance. As rain is forcast in the next couple of days, we do hope all pipes are mended and ready to convey that much needed water to the tank.
Not much was achieved on the quilting front today. A few of the ladies at my group (Toowoomba Quilters) attempted to tutor me on needle-turn applique. By the end of one tulip head, I felt a little more comfortable with it. Fortunately in was only a test run, just hope the real ones go okay as they are going on the club's 2008 raffle quilt. Each year the group makes a quilt and proceeds go to a local charity. This year, the quilt is in the style of a "row by row", depicting the four seasons. I volunteered to do the spring section which is a row of tulips. Now why would I do that when I haven't done the needleturn applique?? God only knows. Perhaps it may be the start of a new chapter in applique and I will do that Baltimore quilt I have always wanted to do. This won't be in the near future as 2008 is going to be the year of finishing off things. Heard it all before?? I really mean it this time.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How it all started

How my dearly departed mother would be amazed to see her once wayward, wild daughter dabbling in all sorts of arts and crafts. Mum was just able to sew on a button and had a gorgeous little wooden box where she stored a meagre supply of sewing notions. This box is now in my possession and the contents remain exactly as I received them. Various reels of cotton (to match various buttons, I guess, a packet of assorted needles, a tape measure, a "dorcas" tin containing just a few pins, a sewing kit from Conrads International Hotel, 4 sewing kits from the Hotel Carlton in Brisbane (which is now obsolete, but which was a favourite place for her and her friend to stay in inner Brisbane city) small card of elastic, a small plastic bag of assorted buttons, and a roll of navy cotton tape which she used to replace the ties on my Dad's butcher's aprons. Of course, she did not do this herself, but would supply the tape to a sewing friend to fix the aprons.

So, my love of all things quilty and sewing did not come from my Mum! Ever since I was a very small child, I have loved to create something. My paternal Nana (a very patient soul) taught my sister and I how to knit from about age 5 0r 6. My sister soon got bored, after dropping many stitches, but I always persevered and made a scarf for the bride doll. Next door to us, lived an elderly childless woman (another extremely patient soul) who showed us the fine art of embroidery and crochet. By the time I got to Year 7 to do our embroidery sampler, I could already execute the basic stitches. My love of embroidery still exists to this day.

Like many quilters, I have many projects on the go and a lot of UFO's (unfinished objects). One of these is a crazy patchwork quilt. This quilt has already been worked on for about 2 years and I am looking at it as a very long-term project. Initially I envisaged it to be a rather large extravaganza, but sanity prevailed and now it has worked it's way down to a wall hanging. Basically, it is going to be a pictorial, memory type crazy patch quilt and, as this is my first blog entry, I will attempt to add a photo of one of the blocks. This is "the Rose Block", depicting my absolute love of this God's gift to nature. My favourite rose is "Blue Moon" and is depicted at the top of the block. I just love it for it's seductive lilac colour and it's splendid perfume. Can't see the sense in growing a rose without perfume.

Almost finished is a block of the month quilt, a Christmas design, which began about 4 years ago. Progress has been veeeeeery slow, as I was trying to do a full time admin position, marry off a daughter and all the other vagaries of life whilst working on this one. There are many many more UFO's in the cupboard which may be revealed later on this blog.