Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Summing up 2008

Here's one way to sum up 2008: measure yourself against this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

I think so.  Mostly.  Enough.

Here's another: a mosaic of favourite photos from 2008.

Thank you for reading my blog during 2008 - Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas playlist

What with iTunes and the little cassette gadget which lets the iPod play through the car's stereo system, I got to thinking about putting together a playlist of Christmas music to accompany the Christmas travelling hither and yon.

The challenge I've always found with Christmas music on CD is that I don't like all of any CD.  Every choral carol one has five selections that must have pleased the choirmaster, but which make you want to skid past to the cheerful familiarity of Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  They may be tricky/clever/musically intricate, but they're not Christmassy enough.  Maybe my tastes aren't refined enough.  Hey, I'm allowed!  So this house has a pile of Christmas CDs, but cherrypicking is the preference (unless it's Handel's Messiah).

Ah, but between iTunes and the iTunes store, cherrypicking is easier than it's ever been.  Forget buying whole CDs - just buy the tracks you like.  So between these and the CDs I already have, I assembled a Christmas 2008 playlist.  It's a tad eclectic, on reflection, including traditional carols by traditional choirs, crooner Christmas songs (very fifties), Messiah (the Combined Church Choirs CD of highlights) and Frank Kelly's Christmas Countdown (you surely know that one - the Irish monologue spoofing the twelve days of Christmas, which begins, "Dear Nola...").  And a couple of versions of favourite things, because I couldn't decide which to choose.  Or because, in the case of In the Bleak Midwinter, Sarah McLachlan's version and the choral version are entirely different from each other and both wonderful.

Ah.  All the stuff we like.  It's playing now on the iPod dock.  And here's a screenshot of most of it...

My favourite Christmas carol is Once in Royal David's City, as sung by King's College Choir.  Beginning with a single boy's voice, and building (through every verse, thank you, not abbreviated) to a swelling finish with choir and church and all.  Lovely stuff. 
It bewilders me at Christmas church services when the minister tries to 'ring the changes' and chooses unfamiliar/lesser known Christmas carols/hymns.  Can't they see that people WANT to sing the old favourites that you don't sing at other times of the year.  I've been in some Christmas Day services where the singing has been embarrassingly thin because people don't know the hymn or tune.  Were it Hark the Herald, or O Little Town of Bethlehem (all theologically sound, as far as I'm aware), the joyful noise would be exactly that.  Ah well.  Lessons and Carols seems like the best way to construct a Christmas church service, to me.  No less powerful for the familiarity of the Bible passages and the music.
What's your favourite Christmas music?
And yes, there are Australian Christmas carols and Christmas songs.  Those CDs get played and enjoyed separately to the general list above.

Summer fruit

0812 summer fruit
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Isabelle blogged the other day about buying mangoes as a Christmas treat for her son - I'd send you some of these if I could, but I don't think they'd last the trip well from Australia to Scotland....

They don't taste like soap.  You smell them before you taste them, even just as you walk past the greengrocer you can smell them, sweet in the air.  Eating them is a messy summer treat, the flesh slippery with juice, your fingers dripping - eat them outside in the sun (or prepare them genteely and eat the pieces with a fork from a glass dish - but you still have to watch out for drips).


So I excavated the box of scraps (strips and squares, mostly, some strips a tad erratic) left over from various quilts and patchwork projects over the last year.  Is it sad, that I can look at any of them and tell you which quilt or project they were in?  No, I don't think so.  It's good to remember and reminisce (and it would have been smart to take a photo at this point, but I didn't think of it).

I'd started assembling some blocks with them.  So I did a quick bit of designing to work out how many blocks I'd need, then kept sewing.  Sew, press, trim, sew some more.  I made 54 blocks and the pile of scraps looked barely dented.....

Right, then. I did another quick bit of designing.  Hmmmm.  Over 80 blocks required for this idea.  That oughta dent it....  Sew, press, trim, sew some more, repeat....

It has.  The box of scraps is almost empty, and the 80 blocks are close to being completed.  Not sure if there will be time on Christmas Eve/Day to assemble either quilt, but there's always Boxing Day.  It's been really fun to use the scraps, instead of letting them fester and do nothing.  I had idea#3 lined up and ready to go, but I'll need to wait for more scraps to accumulate.

Oh, and in case you wondered, the last few days have also included Christmas shopping, breakfast in a rather nice caf (forgot to photograph my spinach/feta/pumpkin frittata with salad, dressing and chutney, but trust me, it was very very good), various appointments (I'm responsible for getting my hairdresser addicted to Diana Gabaldon books, ha!) and so forth and so on.  But not work, because I'm on holidays, hurrah hooray.

Thanks for the nice welcome back comments from Taph and Fran and Janelly and Candy!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Caught up...

...well, a little.  A few quilting projects completed, as you can see, and I had fun with NaNoWriMo, and well, the end of the year is always and ever busy at work.

As I've been editing photos and composing posts, Handel's Messiah has been on the CD player - from beginning to end.  My favourite Christmas music, bar none.  It's some years since I sang it (although for about ten years I did, as part of a community choir performance at the Sydney Town Hall) but it never fails to be beautiful, wonderful, inspiring music.

Now I have some entrancing scraps and partly made scrap blocks excavated from the sewing room, and I'm going to play....

Oh, and the photo in the blog banner is not photoshopped.  Just a fortuitous location for their retail endeavours!  I could have used a prettier photo of ornaments and lights, but there's a raw authenticity about that one, a casualness that's maybe more part of summer and Christmas here in Australia.  I doubt that water pistols are part of Christmas Day if you have snow, but if it's summer, and you arm the kids and uncles...there is fun to be had indeed.  I've had winter Christmases, and summer ones, and they each have their own individual flavour.  Mince pies, for instance: lovely in winter, heavy and less welcome in summer.  But here, now, the shops have cherries and mangoes, grapes and other fruit, and at night the cicadas sing under the fairy lights.


Quiltlet detail

0812 quiltlet detail
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This is the L quiltlet from the series I'm doing for Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine - it will be published in vol. 17 no. 12, which has an applique theme. The fabrics you see are from a Fig Tree Quilts range for Moda, called Cornucopia; the Clover yoyo makers do make yoyo (Suffolk Puffs) a cinch to make.


Quilt detail

0812 quilt detail
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This project was for Australian Country Threads, and will be published next year (I know I keep saying this, but the lead time is up to five months, so there's a bit of a gap between me finishing/handing it in, and you getting to see the magazines!). The fabrics you see here are from Charisma by Chez Moi for Moda, a range with beautiful colours and patterns.


Quilt detail

0812 quilt detail
Originally uploaded by rooruu
The editor of Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine challenged me to make a quilt from no more than three fabrics with a major component of recycled material. Yikes (I can't do a shirt quilt, which are always fun!). This is a detail from the quilt I made - I had it commercially quilted as I wanted an allover pattern on it for texture. See what it looks like in Australian Patchwork and Quilting vol. 17 no. 11 next year!


Quiltlet detail

0812 quiltlet detail
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This is a detail of the K quiltlet, which will be published in Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine vol. 17 no. 11 next year. I hadn't done any embroidery for a while, so it was fun to play.


Ikea bird lights

0812 Ikea bird lights
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Everything else has been so busy that there hasn't been a lot of Christmas decorating going on around here. There's a string of fairy lights around the verandah that come on every night, and I did invest in these bird lights from Ikea. They're LED, battery powered, and came in several colours - blue, white, orange, yellow. Ikea's had some great little individual LED lights like this over the last few years - dragonflies, hearts - just fun (and safer than tealights, if you're not in the room all the time). They also have small strings of battery powered fairy lights, very handy to wear when wearing fairy lights is called for...


Quilt detail

0812 quilt detail
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This is a before-quilting picture - I had this one machine quilted with a lovely butterfly design (Hermione Agee of Lorien Quilting has great designs - ask your machine quilter about them). This one's a present for a little girl at Christmas (she likes butterflies) and will be in Handmade magazine next year.


Birthday candles

0812 birthday candles
Originally uploaded by rooruu
At a birthday party for someone rather older than two, I caught this picture, intrigued by the way in which the wax had melted.


Quiltlet: E is for Echuca

This is the fifth in the series of quiltlets (little quilts) I'm making for Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine. Echuca is in vol. 17 no. 5. I liked the energy in this one of the sashing and plaid fabric and the mix of reproduction and modern fabrics; the conversational fabric in the centre of the blocks took some cutting (it was an overall scatter in a multitude of directions) but it's worked out well.



0812 jacaranda
Originally uploaded by rooruu
The jacarandas were magnificent this year - they're such a beautiful tree. With some that seem to have particularly intense lavender blossoms, you feel as though you're walking through lavenderblue air as you walk under them.


Catching up...

I remember once reading a theory that domestic machinery converses, only we can't hear it...

just after the modem died, I picked up my digital camera.  It started, but then froze.  And a sinister rattle was evident...

Yes, said the lady in the shop, it will take three to four weeks to return to you after being repaired or replaced under warranty (thus cutting it very fine with Christmas in prospect).

So the modem died, and the camera, and it was all fun and games to get them sorted.  I especially appreciated Optus replacing the modem at no charge, and then charging me for it, and only admitting this after I asked them the second time... as I said, fun and games to get it sorted.

But now it's holidays, the modem's working, the camera's back (I missed it!) and I'll bung in a few posts here to catch up.

Did you miss me?  I kept reading your blogs and missed blogging.  It will be good to re-establish the habit.  The amusing thing is that the blog's stats haven't changed much - this blog seems to gather a bunch of traffic from googlers, more so than regular readers.   But Isabelle's nice comment on the modem's return (isn't it good to have term finished?????) reminded me that there are regular readers out there..

Kiva: Martha and Khoen

See this field, and this wonderfully cheerful man?
This is Mr Khoen Khiev , and he's going to grow jasmine there.  For my work Christmas cards this year, I took out two Kiva loans and included information about one or the other in each card, with a note.  The one with Khoen said:
Your gift
will grow jasmine in Cambodia.
To show how grateful I am for your work and help this year, I’ve made a Kiva loan
that will be as productive
and appreciated as you are.

Here's some more information about him:

Mr. Khoeun Khiev, 55, and his wife, Mrs. Heng Sok, 50, live along the Tonle Basac River, a tributary of the nearby Mekong River, about 15 kilometers from Phnom Penh. They were married in 1978 during the Pol Pot regime and have four children: one son and three daughters. Three of their children have full-time employment and the youngest daughter studies in a local school. Khoeun and his wife have been growing jasmine flowers for ten years. In addition to farming jasmine, he is also a fisherman. The couple grow jasmine on their farmland near the house and sell the flowers in the Phnom Penh market. Khoeun is requesting a loan of $700. He will use some of it to purchase a water pump and pipe for farming. With the remainder, he will buy more jasmine trees to plant on his new plot of farmland.

The other loan was to Martha:

I chose this one for the particularly office people at work, because of the stationery.  Here's more about Martha Luz Chogas de Melendez :

Martha belongs to the Nuevo Eden (New Eden) Communal Bank, located on #441 Jr. Aguaytia, Yarinacocha district, Coronel Portillo province, Ucayali department. She is 49 years old, is the mother of 2 grown-up children ans she is married. Her husband works as a professional photographer. With the first loan that she received from Manuela Ramos of 300 soles (Peruvian currency) she decided to invested in selling stationery and school supplies.
Currently, she is dedicated to sell stationery and school supplies and has a copy machine at home. This business provide her earnings that allow her to pay her loan back on time.
With this loan of 2,000 soles (Peruvian currency), which will be paid back in 4 months, Martha will buy 6 boxes of ballpoint pens, 4 dozen notebooks, 3 dozens of luster paper, fixing the copy machine, etc.
Martha feels happy with everything that she has been able to accomplish. Thanks to the support of the communal bank her economic stability has improved.

And my card said:

Your gift will buy stationery and fix a copier in Peru.
To show how grateful I am for your work and help this year, I’ve made a Kiva loan
that will be as productive
and appreciated as you are.

There's another group of friends with whom a Christmas present exchange takes place - next year, we're planning that each of the four of us will choose a favourite charity and make a donation to that instead of exchanging gifts.

My Kiva portfolio is growing! - these are the seventh and eighth loans I've made.  Once I've put money in, I don't take it out when it's repaid, but reinvest in another Kiva entrepreneur.  Most of my loans have focused on textiles, since that's a particular interest for me, but there are so many great possibilities... there's a permanent Kiva link over on the sidebar, so do take a look.  I hope that some of those to whom I gave Christmas cards consider investing in Kiva too.  It's been a good thing to discover in 2008.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The modem has landed...

...after a saga and a half. Or indeed, a minimum of 2 3/4 sagas with a cherry on top. At least.

More later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Modem died

New modem coming very soon, and blogging can then properly resume.

NaNoWriMo count is now nearly half way, (over 22000 words) with 13 days to go....

Two quilts being longarm quilted, and another quiltlet well on the way to being finished....

And lots happening at work. It's a busy life!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Australia: the movie - full trailer

This is the full trailer, not the teaser trailer that's been around for a while.   Source, if the above doesn't work for you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas hearts

0810 Christmas hearts
Originally uploaded by rooruu
OK, I'll admit it. Didn't need any more Christmas decorations...but these little painted wooden hearts came home with me from David Jones. Not expensive, and rather sweet.

I'm most besotted with the bird lights from Ikea. Which I can't find on their site, so will photograph and post here soon.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quilt in progress

0811 quilt
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This is the J quiltlet - I'll post a full pic when the relevant issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine comes out next year (the current issue here includes the E quiltlet. Must blog that this week). The screenprint panel is by Saffron Craig.

Two quilts are waiting to be taken to the machine quilter, I'm a little behind on NaNoWriMo writing and the K quiltlet is well under way. A weekend of progress.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Street fair

08 street fair mosaic

At the annual street fair today, there was plenty to see.  There's a largehuge version of this mosaic here .

Aha, but if you're a regular reader, entranced though you may be by the mosaic, you're thinking, what about those gotta wanna tasks she was planning for the weekend?

Let me distract you for a moment.  Did you notice those madly decorated shoes?  And exploding brooches?  And the charm of a normally busy roadway given over to games and hopscotch?  And the green-winged kid on the unicycle being madly followed by a smaller yellow kid pedalling like crazy on his bicycle? No?  Do take a look.  It is curious, though, that in this day and age, one feels slightly hesitant about taking photos, even at such a public event.  You get the odd person looking askance, as though you're doing something vaguely criminal.  Hmmm.  A pity.  Note: I spent less than an hour at the festival...

OK, you're not distracted entirely, are you?

On the NaNoWriMo front, while I haven't typed them up yet or thus amended my total on the NaNoWriMo site (I handwrote them), I wrote another 1600 and some words today (1667 is the daily average you need to sustain to reach 50,000 by the end of November).  So the widget on my blog shows no change, but progress was made.  Tick.

On the quilting front, the larger of the two quilts has gone from pieces to a top.  Just needs a simple border, and then I think it will be longarm quilted, as a quilting pattern would work nicely with it (ie it's not suited to either straight lines or scribbling, and I'm not skilled enough to do the kind of pattern I want on it).  Tick.  I know what I'm going to do tomorrow with the quiltlet.  Tick.

Tomorrow is another day.

PS Candy asked how my quilt studio is going.  Right now, it isn't, but the plans are reforming.  Also, it's too cold to quilt there in winter, so I didn't. 

Friday, November 07, 2008

Gotta, wanna...

0810 Christmas ornament 02
Originally uploaded by rooruu
What I've got to do this weekend: break the back of two quilting projects, a larger one and the K quiltlet. Keep going with NaNoWriMo, since the weekend bursts clearly, for me, help along when a weekday gets busybusy (see over there on the NaNoWriMo widget? over 11,000 words?! The blank page and bungee jump of the 50,000 words is still scary and challenging - good challenging).

What I want to do this weekend: curl up to finish the third Temeraire book (Black Powder War) and then read the fourth, which is on the pile...along with the second Charlaine Harris book...and I have the third Charlaine one too... (yay for, which meant I got them a LOT cheaper than buying here, mad though that seems).

Not that any of this isn't fun, of course (and I haven't bothered mentioning the expected gotta-dos, like housework and washing and such. They're just regular weekend work). It's the creative tension of deadlines. Often, of course, that's what DOES help you get stuff done.

Is it cheating to put up just one Christmas quilt, a raspberry + pretties one that goes over a picture? I'll post a photo soon - it's in the Patchwork and Stitching Christmas issue this year.  I know it's only early November, but I just got the quilt back from the magazine and I do want to put it up and enjoy it...without the silver tree in front of it (yet) maybe you wouldn't at first realise it's a Christmas quilt? (was that too plaintive?!)

What's on your weekend list?

Mine just got longer.  I have to write quilt instructions for the two quilts I finished this last week...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ikea violence

0811 Ikea violence
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Spotted at Ikea earlier this week. I'm guessing it's not how the Ikea display/merchandising team intended them to be.... I did a doubletake, chuckled and then fished out the camera.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The hope of a better day

0811 obama
I wore my hope bracelets this morning, wondering overnight how the voting had gone. We watched the tallying over the working day, people putting their heads in the office and asking how it was going. It's the first presidential election I can remember watching like this, the internet our information source for newspaper reports and video of Barack Obama's speech (full transcript here) in Grant Park, Chicago.

What's been echoing in my mind over the progress of the caucuses and electioneering is this sentence:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Wishing this new beginning all the luck in the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fruit, blue sky

0810 prunus fruit
Originally uploaded by rooruu
A day of small things that were good. Moments at work when I knew I was making a difference. A healthy, flavourful lunch with enough time to eat it. A Skypechat catchup with dear friends overseas, and dinner with local dear friends. Fruit, blue sky.

NaNoWriMo day 4: tally is over 10,000, but I'm aware of the bungy-jump fear of the blank page, the driver of 1667 words a day needed to meet the challenge.  And the only solution is to start typing, or writing, and chase down the story.  One day at a time.  Fruit, blue sky.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Festive Charm finds friends

My Festive Charm table runner design from Australian Country Threads has some new friends.  Janellybelly's finished table runner is here (read earlier in her blog to see it in progress) and Dee's chosen some fabrics, as you can see here

Thank you!

Eric (you must read this)

In the midst of all the uncertainties of right now - elections and economics and everything else - there is solace and joy to be found in literature, and the worlds writers create.  Shaun Tan's illustrated book, Tales from Outer Suburbia, is gentle and quirky and catches you sideways with an utterly different perspective on familiar things.  My favourite story from the book is Eric.  And you can read it online in a .pdf.  Click here.  Scroll down.  Enjoy.  It's wonderful.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NaNoWriMo: day two

Still writing, and am keeping up so far.  The word count widget isn't showing it yet, but I've clocked today's 1667 words plus a few more.

I put an extract on my user page over at NaNoWriMo - do read it, if you'd like (but remember, it's first draft! - constructive criticism or fawning admiration welcome...! - leave a comment here on the blog).  The title's changed, already, and it's now The Bluebird Café.

You can help!  I don't like coffee or tea, so I don't drink them, but it would be good to have some helpful descriptions from coffee or tea drinkers (given that the novel involves a café) to use for characters/café customers.  So, when you go to a café, how do you like your coffee, or tea?  Don't just say white or black, tell me something more.  Particular temperature, particular blend of either, particular size, what? Why do you take it this way?  Or if there is something else that you choose to drink, what is it and why?  Please leave a comment on this blog entry!


Gee's Bend quilt show, Sydney

As part of the Quilt Indulgence festival at Canterbury Racecourse in Sydney, there are Gee's Bend quilts on display. First time in Sydney. I've been reading about Gee's Bend quilts for several years, although haven't had the opportunity to go to the US to see them in any of their art gallery/quilt show exhibits there myself. I've been inspired by the photographs I've seen online and in books, tried my hand at the style with recycled fabrics and OK, call me a fan. So knowing this exhibition was coming up, a friend and I were definite attendees. What follows in this blog entry is, I stress, my opinion. Some may agree, others not, but the world is wide and open to many points of view.

At the racecourse, about a quarter of an hour before the 9.30am opening, we were the third car in the carpark. My experience of other large quilt/craft shows is that, by such a time, the carpark is anything but empty. We were glad there was some signage about, so we were in the right place. Odd. Unsettling, These are GEE'S BEND quilts on show here, acclaimed modern American art.

We wandered up to buy tickets, chatting to some quilting friends (the fourth and fifth cars held quilters we knew, and no, that's not what you usually find, either - Sydney's a city of millions, after all, and the craft show included scrapbooking/papercrafts, thus gathering in people from a different crafting milieu). The longest queue was to get in at 9.30, and we were in that queue for at least two minutes, but no more. Also unheard of. Odder and odder - these are Gee's Bend quilts here...and not unfamiliar, I would have said, to ?the majority of quilters, or at least those interested in art quilts/quilt history, or toddling around the blogosphere or quilting email lists.

In we went, the Gee's Bend quilts our goal. There were quilts on exhibition from several quilt magazines, representing Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan. But where - ? We walked past aisles, around corners, past the five or six retailers (only five or six?) and on to the quilts.

Right at the back, in two alleys, were the Gee's Bend quilts. I can't show you photos, because there were No Photography signs (thus the photo of the flyers instead). The catalogue had thumbnails of each of the quilts on display - all were for sale, for prices mostly in the thousands, a few in the tens of thousands.

Maybe the sales angle was the reason they were here, tucked on temporary white alleyways behind an escalator in a racecourse stand, for one weekend only. When their arrival in Sydney was first publicised, some months ago, I contacted a major museum that exhibits textiles among other things, and suggested they should look again at these quilts, given their standing and the success of such exhibitions in major US museums and galleries. Couldn't get them interested.

So here we were. Desperately glad to get a chance to see the quilts for real, not just moderated through a photograph.

What was good:

Being able to see them at all. Magic. Amazing.

Being able to see detail of workmanship - which varied a lot, and demonstrated a variety of different decisions/choices on the part of the makers.

Being able to see a range, from some one considered more successful to others which seemed less graphically successful. The most successful ones, to me, usually involved plainer or tone on tone fabrics - often still a scrap-based variety, but my preference is for the patterning of piecing, in these quilts, over the patterns on fabrics.

We were there early, so had a fair amount of time to browse them before the aisles held more people - but it wasn't at all crowded.

Reading the few laminated biography sheets there about some of the quilters, their family histories and how and why they quilt. It would have been good if they'd set aside an area somewhere, as many museum exhibits do, continuously running the documentary about Gee's Bend and the quilts, so you could see them talking, hear their voices.

What wasn't good:

The sadness of something this amazing being tucked away into a weekend at a racecourse for the quilting fraternity. One of the things about the Gee's Bend quilts, for me, is their capacity to amaze and engage non quilters with the possibilities of quilting as an art form, modern design, in all sorts of ways prompt the response, "I didn't know quilts could be like that!" My guess is that the only people there who weren't quilters were accompanying quilters.

If you look at Citysearch, or the Sydney Morning Herald, there is NOTHING about this exhibition. Nothing. That's such a shame. If an exhibition like this is to find an audience beyond the quilting fraternity, it needs to be publicised to the mainstream media to reach that audience.

The layout - two alleys of them - meant that you could only stand back a few feet to see each quilt. In a larger gallery situation, you can stand back further, see the quilts in different ways. When I was in Melbourne at the NGV in January, one of the pleasures of the rooms, large and small, was the chance to stand back and see items from a distance, as well as up close.

An hour and a half later, we were done. We'd studied the quilts, discussing what engaged us, what our expectations had been, how they had been met/adjusted by the reality of the quilts. I'm still utterly delighted to have finally had the chance to view the real thing, after reading about them for so long. If you have a chance to go today, then do (parking won't be a problem). Among the rest of the quilts on display, we enjoyed seeing them all and were very impressed with a number. Without the Gee's Bend quilts being there, would we have gone? No.

As a quilter and quilt history enthusiast, I'm so sorry that the capacity of these quilts to evangelise, to connect with people, was confined by their context and the limitations of this exhibition. I hope a major gallery or museum does mount a proper exhibition of them in Sydney in the future.

Added later: The Gee's Bend exhibition that has been touring the US for several years is Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt.  It's in Philadelphia now (thanks for the tip, Candy).  If you want to see what a comprehensive exhibition can involve (and this is just if you access the website, let alone if you go to see the quilts) then here are some links - make sure you investigate the tabs on each page to go deeper/learn more, and also listen to the podcasts:

Hmmm.  Can we have that in Sydney, please?  And just while I'm being curious, why is the exhibition in Sydney not mentioned at all on the Quilts of Gee's Bend website page about current exhibitions ?  Or on the Tinwood Media website (publisher/promoter of Gee's Bend quilts)?  What was on exhibition in Sydney?  

If you haven't read it before, here's the 2002 review from the New York Times which acclaimed the Gee's Bend quilts as astonishing modern art.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaNoWriMo: day one

The word counter widget isn't operational yet, so here's today's tally:

2101 words. 

(With the goal of 50,000 words of novel by 30 November, that's 1667 words a day...).

Date loaf

0811 date loaf
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Afternoon tea, after a day including a quilt show, a quilt shop and Ikea (blue Christmas bird lights! Hurrah! - will post a pic soon) in good company.

And home, to the quietness of late afternoon, the day cloudy and enough time to bake a date loaf. The smell drifted about the house, warm and welcoming, and it tasted (as you can see) good. Topped with cinnamon sugar, buttered and eaten with relish (figurative, not literal), warm from the oven.


Friday, October 31, 2008


0810 afternoon tree
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Yesterday the afternoon sky was clouded with quiet, beautiful shades of grey-blue, and the tree a tracery over it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


0810 rhubarb
Originally uploaded by rooruu
It's a while since I did any fruit and veg shop photography. I was in there the other day, and just took this rhubarb photo - when the misting spray came down and I whipped my camera out of the way.

Wouldn't this make a good colour combination for a quilt? Lime to jade greens, pink to cranberry. Hmmmm. Maybe when I'm finished all the ones I have to get done first.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crosshatch (a book rant)

0810 crosshatch
Originally uploaded by rooruu
I picked this photo because of the 'cross' bit.

The habits of publishers in Australia sometimes utterly bewilder me.

For instance: I read Charlaine Harris' first Sookie Stackhouse novel recently. Lots of fun (Dead Before Dark is the title). O-kay. If I want to buy any more to read from an Australian bookshop (thus supporting local etc) then I have to buy the locally available editions. Which not only have stupid covers in comparison to the charmingly quirky illustrations on the US covers (a small detail, I know, but interesting - why change something distinctive for something which is boring, which the UK covers are?) BUT also cost a BOMB more.

US price for items in this series which have been out for a while: $US7.99. Which even with the battered Australian dollar is under $15AU, plus postage.

Bookshelf price for the same titles here, is $AU30 and upwards. Per book. Hello? The words are the same. They are larger format than the US paperbacks, with aforesaid daft boring undistinguished thematic covers. This isn't Booker Prize material, folks, it's fun reading. When one book is the price of two cinema tickets (and doesn't have to be), well, the readers make their choices too.

I can buy the next five in the series from for under $60AU, delivered to the door. I couldn't buy two at the local bookshops for that. Even at amazon, and adding the postal charges for five books, beats the local price. (The Book Depository does free worldwide shipping, and discounts many titles as well).

Something is rotten.

Another example: A while ago a colleague was trying to track down a picture book for a present; it had been mentioned on the radio. Two different local bookstores quoted 6-8 weeks and prices ranging from $29.95 to $32.95. From an online retailer, it converted to under $13 AU and arrived a week later. But do any chain booksellers tell you, truthfully, that they're only observing the Recommended Retail Price when it suits them? No, they don't - how many mug punters have been caught by that little game?

I know I might find the Charlaine Harris books in the local library. Might. If it was open after hours and had the stock and I wanted to use the petrol. But its collection is incomplete and its hours incompatible.

Rant over. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

PS. and the audiobook versions of Charlaine Harris' work aren't available on, if you live in Australia.  Like, it seems, a lot of stuff.  I wish authors/publishers would do better at audiobook rights, think outside the US market.  There are customers here too.....


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Purple buds

0810 purple buds
Originally uploaded by rooruu
There's lots on the agenda today, and stuff that's dropped off because one day isn't enough to do it all - things budding and blooming and happening. Got to get some quilting done!

Back of my mind somewhere, have to let my NaNoWriMo idea brew some more. National Novel Writing Month ( starts on 1 November, in a week. The goal? One 50,000 word novel in the month. Is it cheating to write notes now, or phrases, or odd comments about characters? Dunno. It's all part of the adventure. I do have the germinating germ of an idea...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pink flower, white wall

0810 pink flower, white wall
Originally uploaded by rooruu
It's been a beautiful sunny spring day today. Warm, not too hot, time to have lunch in good company and get some work done this afternoon. This evening? Some quilting, which will be good too. Might make some soda bread tomorrow - I got two cartons of buttermilk (a key ingredient which I don't normally have in the fridge) and there's still one there.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Pink lily

0810 pink lily
Originally uploaded by rooruu
With morning light behind them, there was a wonderful pink translucence to these flowers. Still tired today, but mouth not nearly as sore as after the last lot of dental work, so hurrah hurray for that!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


0810 toofless
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Today was it - morning appointment with the oral surgeon to finally take the rest of the recalcitrant tooth out. It didn't stand a chance, and if I ever have to have another toof out I'm a huge convert to sedation as part of extraction.... Even though I was silly as a two bob watch coming out of it (which is fairly usual, I believe), and provided my lovely chauffeur with plenty of blackmail material (I didn't say did...). Lots of sleeping the rest of the day, and relief that it's finished.

I should say that these weren't the actual tools the oral surgeon employed, but representative, well, kinda sorta...

I'm glad it's over. Well, except for the bills! Expensive things, teef.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chard and cooking

0810 chard
Originally uploaded by rooruu
If I had a vegetable garden, I'd grow chard like this, wonderful colours! It reminds me of Kaffe Fassett fabric, he had a chard one a while back. This is the larger version of my current blog header - the colours were too good not to enjoy for longer. I took the pic at the local farmers' market - it's not a very large one, but still nice to have there each month. I didn't buy chard, but I did get a dozen organic free range eggs from happy chickens.

Jamie Oliver's recent program on eggs and chickens was excellent for inducing guilt - I feel faintly criminal now if I buy anything but free range, after seeing what he showed. More recently, I've been watching his Ministry of Food programs and am utterly bewildered at why so many people are resorting to take-away because they cannot cook at all. It's astonishing, then, when they learn even a little, how transforming it is to their whole lives - not a chore, but a joy.

I also watched his series on School Dinners - another eye-opener. And if you look at the UK schools food trust, or whatever it's called, the standards and expectations on the website now seem vastly different from what appeared to be acceptable when he tied on an apron and went into the land of fried chips and chicken nuggets very few years ago. You've got to respect someone who, having got celebrity, is being so damn good at making it work for good.

In Australia, noted chef Stephanie Alexander is involved in a project to have children growing kitchen gardens at school, and learning about food from soil to plate, so to speak.

We learned to cook at home, as kids, starting with simpler stuff and going from there. Maybe I'm lucky, but when I think of the Ministry of Food idea of "Pass it on" (learn one recipe, then teach it to two people, who then teach it to two more), I don't think I know anyone who can't cook. It would be maybe adding to or refining repertoires, not developing them from scratch as the idea intends.

So maybe I'll do it this way. Dear blog reader, head on over to Jamie's Ministry of Food and look at some of the videos and find a recipe that interests you. See how Jamie makes it and have a go yourself. Then pass it on, in whatever way works for you.   It's a very generous website, lots of pictures and information - not one that wants to push you into buying the book by only giving you a squeak to start.

I tried his way of making an omelette, which was different to other ways I'd tried (eg. no milk added, just the eggs whisked) and then did some tweaking.  Two eggs for a single omelette, not three, and I skipped the salt (rarely add it to anything anyway, so even a little tastes strong).  Some smoked salmon shavings on the top, or shaved triple-smoked leg ham.  Or served (you don't have to believe me, but it tasted good) with sliced strawberries on the side, instead of tomatoes.  Got that last idea from French toast with raspberry coulis that I had at a cafe for breakfast once - before that, French toast was a savoury dish only, nothing sweet with it (although I believe North Americans add maple syrup to it, which I can't quite approach.  Bit too sweet.  The raspberries and strawberries still have a bite to them).

Hmmm.  Maybe I'll head back over there myself and try something else.  Not because I can't, but because I can, and I might learn something new, too.  

If you do try something from there, do leave a comment here, esp. if you've blogged about it, so I can enjoy reading your take on it.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Power pole puddle

0810 power pole puddle
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Took this early in the morning - sun up, but the light still gentle. It was interesting to see how it came out nearly monochrome. I don't recollect that being how it struck me when I took the photo. The reflection was what caught my eye, the sharpness and snatch as the puddle had this angular view. I stopped, and stepped back a couple of paces to see it again, then pulled out the camera.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reading: Temeraire

0810 book: Temeraire
Originally uploaded by rooruu
This book (also known as His Majesty's Dragon) is fabulous! Take the Napoleonic wars (the British side of them) and add in the aerial corps, which is, um, dragons. The prose is restrained and engaging - the characters sound period, not plonked - and the inventiveness of the story is borne out in its telling. Naomi Novik didn't just have a good idea, she made it work. When naval captain Will Laurence finds his whole life turned upside down by being forced to become the handler of the dragon Temeraire... the story begins. And there are sequels. Yay! (And Peter Jackson has the film rights).

I love it when you find/read the kind of book that makes you want to buttonhole strangers to recommend it, so they can share the hit and pleasure too. Consider yourself buttonholed!

You know that list of rooruu's favourite books from a little while ago? Something just lost its place, because this has definitely vaulted on.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Irish Quilting magazine

There's a new magazine coming out, Irish Quilting.  It was mentioned in an equilter newsletter, and this is the magazine's website .  I'll have to ask the newsagent about it.  Wonderful colour in the quilt on their home page.


Diana Gabaldon and Outlander: the basic poop

This year has been full of Gabaldon words for me, revisiting the Outlander series in written text and the unabridged audiobooks.  So, if I've managed to get you interested, here's the basic poop and links to take you onward.

I blogged about my shelf of (paperback) Diana Gabaldon books back in August, and am extremely glad that I went ahead and ordered the hardbacks before the Australian dollar nosedived. Here's the upgraded shelf. I've read and reread these books in paperback, engrossed by the characters and stories and the world of them. I don't own a lot of hardcover fiction - most fiction in Australia isn't published in hardcover, unlike the US - so anything I do have in hardback is usually a firm favourite (or something like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, a shorter book that was published here initially in hardcover).

Candy commented on my last entry that my Gabaldon enthusiasm has finally borne fruit (ha! - I've lost count of how many people I've introduced to this engrossing series!) (and I've only had one failure. I won't mention that it's my dear mama, because she sometimes reads this blog) and she's invested in Outlander, asking what comes next?

Here's a visual record for you, Candy. And yes, there is an order in which to read them:
  • Outlander (published in Australia and the UK as Cross Stitch)
  • Dragonfly in Amber
  • Voyager
  • Drums of Autumn
  • The Fiery Cross
  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes
next, coming late in 2009: An Echo in the Bone.  There's a three to four year gap between each Outlander novel being published.

The Outlandish Companion covers the first four books; there is a plan for another volume, but that would likely be when the series is complete (at least two books away, Echo plus at least one more).  Some editions of this were titled Through the Stones.

A significant character from the Outlander series, Lord John Grey, appears in a separate series of shorter novels and novellas:
  • Lord John and the Private Matter
  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade
  • Lord John and the Hand of Devils (which contains Lord John and the Hellfire Club, Lord John and the Succubus and Lord John and the Haunted Soldier)
With Cross Stitch, the text is slightly different to Outlander - one scene, and a few other small changes.  Now, by choice, I'd read Outlander.  Which you have to buy from The Book Depository (if you don't want to pay postage), or eBay etc, or a second hand bookseller, as the new book edition sold here as standard is Cross Stitch.

The audiobooks are available in two versions, and the only ones worth considering are the unabridged readings by Davina Porter for Recorded Books.  The abridged ones are as little as 25% of the original text (ie. 75% is gone) and these heavily butchered abridged ones are not worth bothering with, imho.  You can find the unabridged ones at Amazon and, with the unabridged Fiery Cross being the exception, only available to US purchasers from Recorded Books direct.  For me in Australia,, via a membership, was the cheapest way to obtain them, no postal charges and downloaded to iPod.  Of course, if you can find a local library with them, that's another option.

A graphic novel with a Jamie and Claire story taking place with the time span of Outlander is also in the works, likely to be published some time in 2009.  Diana talks about that on her blog and website.

(Entirely selfishly, while helping Candy I've given myself a one-stop location for the Diana Gabaldon links I use.  Ha! again).

* poop as in information.  No pejorative associations implied or intended.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trailer: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

As is the odd and indeed curious wont of filmmakers, you can't have just one film with a kinda maybe similar theme at once; more often than seems explainable, you get a glut.

So while one waits for any more news of the film of The Time Traveler's Wife - no poster, no trailer, no website, no-show at the Toronto Film Festival as had been anticipated, a release date for the US that has vanished from the imdb page linked above, but with so little publicity, one has doubts that its release is anytime soon... and there's no sign of an Australian release date.  Sometime in 2009?

There's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button , based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.   Also involving (literary) time travel.  No poster, but there's an official website , and a new non-teaser trailer.  Film starts in Australia on Boxing Day.

First jacaranda of the season

The purple blossom on the ground alerted us - when jacaranda season is in full swing, in November, the blossoms carpet the ground unmissably. But today, there were just a few, here and there, so we looked up and saw with delight that the jacarandas have begun to flower.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Gum trees: evening

0810 afternoon light
Originally uploaded by rooruu
The warm light of late afternoon runs along the gum trees, lighting them differently to mornings - still one side, with the sun closer to the horizon, but while the morning light catches quietly, the afternoon light gilds. It's Friday, and the weekend is welcome after a busy week.


Gum trees: morning and evening

0810 trees at morning and evening
A side by side comparison.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

White plumbago

0810 white plumbago
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Such pretty stuff, plumbago, in its blue form or white. Generous enough in flowering to strew on a weekend lunch table. And again, since it flowers so long.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quiltlet: D is for Duckmaloi

0810 D is for Duckmaloi
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Isn't Duckmaloi a great place name? This is the fourth in my series of quiltlets (small quilts) for Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine (this is in vol. 17 no. 4).

I based this one on a beautiful, simple, vintage one I saw - it looked like it had been made from scraps, but when you looked again, you could see balance and thought in the placement of the fabrics. The original had clearly led a tough, appreciated life as a doll quilt.

Had a lovely comment on C is for Cootamundra, which I blogged a few weeks ago - she said she was going to make it in pinks and greys (the original is in greens and yellow). It's just great when people see a design and can find ways to make it quite their own. Duckmaloi, in thirties fabrics, or blocks of hand-dyes, would look quite different. And so kind when they let you know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Red Cross trauma teddies

0810 Red Cross trauma teddies
Originally uploaded by rooruu
I had to visit the pathologist this morning, and felt a tad pale after the unchatty vampire with the rather beautiful Pandora bracelet had finished her work. Unfortunately, being old and, it is assumed, brave, I don't qualify for a trauma teddy. But it was nice to admire the basketful instead of thinking about the monosyllabic vampire (whose bracelet, she mentioned, had ended up costing her over two thou*.  Oh, I said.).

Aren't those individual faces and expressions and colours just delightful? Red Cross volunteers knit trauma teddies and supply them in all sorts of places where children may need comfort. Just one wonderful way in which craft skill translates to charity and kindness.

*two thousand dollars?  Yikes!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gum trees: morning

0810 gum trees
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Early morning walk. Diana Gabaldon on the iPod (Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade), camera in pocket, water bottle in the handy little crochet long-strapped dilly bag I bought the other week. The tall trunks of these gum trees, and the early morning light. It's good.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Irish soda bread

0810 soda bread
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Yesterday I had meant to be at the opening of The Shopping Sherpa's doll house exhibition (see button top right). But circumstances intervened. So today I made one of my favourite foods, because it always cheers me up. Love Irish soda bread. With butter, for sure. Tried it with smoked salmon, and that worked well too. Yum.

In case you don't know it, it's an unyeasted wholemeal bread - gorgeous hot from the oven, good the next day when warm, if it lasts that long.  Doesn't keep, but why should it?  I tried a whole bunch of recipes till I found the one I always use now.

(OK, if you ask I'll post the recipe on this blog...I don't have it by me just now.  It does have a couple of secret - but not obscure - ingredients you don't find in standard recipes.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


0810 leaves
Originally uploaded by rooruu
One thing I appreciate about a decent macro mode on my small camera is that it makes me see, and consider (and photograph) what I might otherwise pass on or pass by. This may have been a grevillea? - but look at those shadings of greens and pale browns and almost-pinks, and the shaping of the stem.

Friday, October 10, 2008


0810 photinia
Originally uploaded by rooruu
An effective hedge, photinia. But I liked these buds and little flowerheads, macro-close.

rooruu's fifty best books

I thought, enough with the lists from other people and companies - what's MY list of top books/reads/authors?

So I thought about it, and wandered along the bookshelves, and here's the list.

It's a brew of children's and adult fiction, classics and bestsellers and bestselling classics, out of print stuff, newer books, some narrative nonfiction (it's my list, I get to make up the rules!).  Some I've reread recently, others not so recently.  But if I had to have just fifty books (well, some are series, but you get my drift), right now this is the list (note: no guarantee it won't change sometime - heck, I only read a couple of these books for the first time recently - who's to say I won't find more treasure soon.  Happy to.).

rooruu’s fifty books
alphabetical order by author
fiction and narrative nonfiction
each author only once – so fifty authors (and you can say series)
if you post this list on your blog, please include a link back to the source, 

  1. Margaret Atwood        The handmaid’s tale
  2. Jane Austen                 Pride and prejudice
  3. John Berger                 Ways of seeing
  4. Geraldine Brooks        Year of wonders
  5. Bill Bryson                  The lost continent
  6. Truman Capote            In cold blood
  7. Margaret Craven          I heard the owl call my name
  8. Marcia Davenport        The valley of decision
  9. Annie Dillard               The writing life
  10. Paige Dixon                 A time to love and a time to mourn
  11. Louise Erdrich             The blue jay’s dance
  12. M.F.K. Fisher              The art of eating
  13. Frederick Forsyth         The day of the Jackal
  14. Diana Gabaldon           Outlander (Cross Stitch) series
  15. Louann Gaeddert         Perfect strangers
  16. Kate Gilmore               Remembrance of the sun
  17. Elizabeth Goudge        The white witch
  18. Kenneth Grahame        The wind in the willows
  19. Helene Hanff                84 Charing Cross Road
  20. Georgette Heyer           Regency novels (eg. The Grand Sophy)
  21. William Horwood        Skallagrigg
  22. Ted Hughes                 The iron man
  23. Sebastian Junger          The perfect storm
  24. Jan Karon                    At home in Mitford
  25. Cecil Maiden               Beginning with Mrs McBee
  26. Robin McKinley          Sunshine
  27. Anne Knowles             Matthew Ratton
  28. Patricia MacLachlan    Sarah, plain and tall
  29. Alastair Maclean         The Golden Gate
  30. Norman Maclean         A river runs through it
  31. Melina Marchetta        Saving Francesca
  32. Ursula Le Guin           A wizard of Earthsea (series)
  33. William Least-Heat Moon   Blue highways
  34. L.M. Montgomery      Anne of Green Gables (series)
  35. Audrey Niffenegger    The time traveler’s wife
  36. Tim O’Brien                The things they carried
  37. Arthur Ransome          Swallows and Amazons
  38. Alice Sebold                The lovely bones
  39. Mary Ann Shaffer        The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  40. Nevil Shute                   Pastoral
  41. Mary Stolz                    The seagulls woke me
  42. Patrick Süskind             Perfume
  43. Rosemary Sutcliff         The mark of the Horse Lord
  44. Agnes Sligh Turnbull    The wedding bargain
  45. Anne Tyler                    The accidental tourist
  46. Cynthia Voigt                Come a stranger
  47. Evelyn Waugh               Brideshead revisited
  48. Jean Webster                  Daddy Long Legs (series)
  49. Laura Ingalls Wilder       Little House series
  50. John Wyndham              The day of the triffids

Do you want to play along? (If you do, leave a comment and a link to your blog so I can see your choices too). 

use this list as it stands, and add your own evaluations thus:
*** my top pick on this list
** read it, a favourite
* read it
~ read it, indifferent
^ would like to read it/plan to read it
write up your own list of fifty favourite books, alphabetical by author, and leave a comment so I can take a squizz.
If something above isn't familiar to you, the Amazons often have either editorial reviews or reader reviews, even for out of print titles.