13 Sep 2015

Dreaming of Orlando

We've been to the USA twice, and both times have involved a trip to Orlando. And for us, Orlando means DisneyWorld.

In 1999, we embarked on an epic trip around the world with our best friends. Two teachers were involved, so we flew out the day after school broke up for the summer. Straight to Las Vegas, then New York for Christmas, bus touring up to Niagara via Amish country, then flying down to Orlando on New Year's Eve. This was critical, arriving early on NYE since the world was about to fall apart due to the millennium bug (hah!)  We stayed at a Days Inn about 40 minutes away, where we were amazed by the complimentary  breakfast of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  We had five days in the parks, and had a fabulous time.  We also spent a day at Seaworld, and a day at NASA, Cape Canaveral. (We continued on touring London, Egypt and South Africa's Kruger Park, and it was the biggest marathon of a holiday ever!)

In 2011, my husband had the chance of going to a conference in Orlando. It was very uncertain for a long time, and his attendance wasn't confirmed until a fortnight beforehand.  Obviously, we wanted to tack on a family holiday if at all possible, so we paid last minute airfares, and lucked into a free dining period staying Disney's Pop Century resort.

This was so much easier staying on site, and the kids were a perfect age to be still on board with the magic, and old enough to go on nearly every ride they wished.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to win a family trip to Orlando. We're so, so grateful and excited! The purpose of the trip was attend a spacecamp experience at NASA, which is thrilling in itself, Of course, we'll be adding on a stay at Disney, and it looks like  we'll go on a short (Disney!) cruise down to the Bahamas as well.  Adding in Discovery Cove, and Seaworld, and it's truly a trip of a lifetime.

I'm spending so much time planning. Between the Disboards, Pinterest, the Disney site, Cruise Critic and Visit Florida, my mind is buzzing with the possibilities.  Our promotional travel agent is taking care of the flights, some accommodation and car hire, but there's still so much to consider.  I'm having a wonderful time already!

7 Sep 2015

Belated exhibition roundup

The Canberra Quilters Exhibition was another great one this year, and it was lovely to see our quilts hanging.

My son's first quilt looked great;

I was very pleased with my finished quilt too;

And my daughter's quilt won a highly commended in the primary school aged children's section, and the Bernina encouragement award.

Yes, that's a Bernina as the prize.  She is so thrilled and excited -  and has even cleaned up her desk to make room for it.  Tidying doesn't come easy, so it's a true measure of excitement.

22 Jul 2015

note to self (quilt exhibition edition)

The Canberra Quilters fabulous exhibition is fast approaching, and I'm looking forward to it. Well, I'll be looking forward to it more after this Saturday, which is dropoff day.

This year I've encouraged my children to enter quilts.  My daughter's was done by the end of the summer holidays, and has been waiting in the cupboard ever since.  It's not perfect in any single way, but she loves it, and can't wait to have it on her bed.

My son is a different matter.  He ended up doing a quilt as you go method, since I thought it would be easiest given my scant skills in that area.   This afternoon we'll be trimming his quilt and binding it. With tomorrow as the backup day if things go wrong. Again, it's a far from perfect quilt, but he was very reluctant to undo any mistakes, so has just carried on regardless of any tension, folding or other issues.  He'll be very happy when it's finished.

I've also entered a quilt this year. It's for my nephew, and the main reason I entered it is to give me an external deadline to complete it.  I love making quilts, but I'm not actually very good at it. This is never more obvious to me than when I'm machine quilting. I've hand quilted the whole centre of this quilt, which has made the machine quilting around the edges more achievable. I'm expecting to finish the quilting this afternoon, ready to bind tomorrow. That will leave Friday for putting sleeves and labels on the quilts.

Come Saturday, my daughter and I will drop the quilts off, and then we'll enjoy seeing them hanging at the show.  Maybe they'll even inspire someone to give quilting a go.

So as I finish the quilting today, and try to fend off more performance anxiety, I'll be reminding myself why I entered in the first place; so Dylan can have his quilt.And that's a pretty good reason really.

22 Jun 2015

Wintery slump

It's been a busy time. A full month of work absorbed my energy and time. One advantage was leaving my husband to be in charge of the morning's routine.  He does it well, and when his work was pressing my wonderful inlaws took up the load.  Another advantage was getting to see the sun rise on  my way across the city. If only I wasn't driving, I could have taken some lovely photos of it. One memorable morning I got to see the moon set and the sun rise.

I've had to make some decisions regarding my exhibition entry. (Really, I should be having these thoughts in October or so, but I didn't.)  I've decided to enter the quilt I started in a workshop with Kathy Doughty using her modern wedges technique. Most bloggers would insert a link here to the entry they made about that workshop, but apparently I didn't blog about it.

So I've been spending some time hand quilting in front of various movies. This one is Russell Crowe's the Water Diviner, and a sobfest it is too.  There's a long, long way to go on the quilting.

The other thing that's been taking up a lot of space in our lives and minds is the high school application process. When I started high school, my country town had one high school. There was no choice.  Next year my boy will move to high school. There are so many schools he could go to it's been a bit intimidating narrowing the choices down.  And then there's the whole worry if he'll be accepted.  In the end, we applied for both public and private schools, and are hoping to receive offers this week. If we don't, my head will probably explode.

4 May 2015

Our Kangaroo Island family holiday

Kangaroo Island has been on our wishlist of travel locations for a long time.  Every year or two we'd price out trips to Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and Uluru, and not do any of them.   In 2009, Adelaide Zoo became home to two Giant Pandas. They're staying for ten years, and we knew we didn't want to miss out on seeing them.  Given it's already 2015, it seemed time.  

We booked the ferry for Kangaroo Island first.  Given that the South Australian school holidays coincided with our ACT break, it seemed wise.  At this stage, we were still hoping to find cheap airfares from Canberra to Adelaide. These never did eventuate, so it was a road trip.  It's about a 13 hour drive, and there were some interesting things along the way.  We saw cotton fields ready for harvesting, and lots of emus.  Mostly though, it was just a long slog.  

 We stayed our first night at Tailem Bend in a family room. The traffic noise wasn't bad and it was very clean, and that was all that we needed.  Monarto Zoo was our main event of the day, and we enjoyed ourselves here. It's an open range zoo, and we enjoyed a variety of bus tours and walking between the different areas. We've visited open range zoos in Dubbo and Werribee before, and found them all similarly enjoyable.

Monarto's roughly an hour from Adelaide, and on the way we spent a little time visiting Hahndorf.  It's a very pretty town and I could have spent quite a lot of time and money there if we weren't all so tired and cross.  So we just invested in various chocolates and headed for our hotel in Adelaide.

Glenelg is one of Adleaide's beachside suburbs, and the Stamford Grand is located right on the beachfront. We'd been lucky with our room, and received an upgrade to a room overlooking the water. It was so nice. The water was a bit cold to swim (even the children only managed 20 minutes os so) but it was lovely to look at. We stayed two nights, enjoying the suburb and relaxing. Watching the sun set over the water behind the pier was a special treat - we're from the east coast, so we see the sun rise over the water typically!

We checked out  bright and early ready for our Kangaroo Island adventure.  First, we stopped at Woolworths and stocked up for our breakfasts and dinners, since supermarkets are scarce on the island. I'm not much of a sailor, so was a little worried about the ferry trip, but it was fine.

After landing, we headed for our first accommodation, which was on the far western side of the island. Along the way we saw an echidna on the side of the road, which was pretty exciting. The Western KI caravan park  was a very quiet and relaxing place to stay.  There was great camp kitchen, but we didn't really need to use it since our cabin was well equipped. (In fact, it was incredibly well stocked - there was even a wok in our kitchen. Most unusual - sometimes you're lucky to find a frypan!)

The next day we spent in the Flinders Chase National Park. We visited Admiral's Arch and watched the New Zealand fur seals playing and then the Remarkable Rocks, Such beauty. Back to the visitor's centre for a delicious lunch (really!) and then we went for a walk.  It's known as the Platypus Waterholes walk, and takes around two hours. In the end we didn't see any platypus, but the walk took us through several very different ecosystems so we enjoyed ourselves. Sadly, my shoes weren't really up to it, and my feet were very sore afterwards.

A good night's sleep somewhat restored my feet but I was glad our next stop, Raptor Domain didn't involved much walking. We saw two of their shows, one with snakes and scorpions, and the other with birds of prey. Entertaining and informative.   I was very tempted by a kit to build a barn owl box in their shop.

Next day, sandboarding in Little Sahara. My son's tip; try to keep your mouth closed!

And then we were on to the main event, Seal Bay.  It's such a beautiful beach, and the wildlife's just extraordinary.  We chose to do a tour down on the sand with the sea lions, and it was great. The rain closed in just as we were ready to leave the beach, so we didn't linger on the boardwalk as we otherwise would have. It really was as special as it's looked on all those travel shows over the years.

After this, we continued on to our next accommodation, back on the eastern side of the island.  The Seafront Resort was lovely, and we were very comfortable in our villa.

On our last day on Kangaroo Island, we visited the lavender farm, honey centre and the sheep dairy.  This was another highlight for me. We did the tour, which included an informative video, many taste tests and watching the sheep being milked. I tend to lactose intolerant, but the sheep cheeses and yogurts didn't bother me at all. 

 We planned to have another few days in Adelaide, and started this time with a trip to the Haigh's Chocolate factory. Another worthwhile tour!
This time, we stayed in the city at the iStay Precinct. It was a very well set up apartment, and I spent some quality time with the inroom washing machine and dryer.

Adelaide Zoo was our main priority on this visit, and we were delighted to find a free bus travelling there.

The pandas did not disappoint. The last time I saw giant pandas was in 1988, and I don't remember having such an impression of their size - of course, we were a long way away then.
It was the first time we've visited Adelaide Zoo, and I was strongly reminded of Taronga in the early 90s. Some exhibits are fabulous, and others are in need of an upgrade.

Back to our hotel, where the kids enjoyed the pool. Such an exciting design. I hated being in that bit sticking out, but fortunately there was a lovely spa I could enjoy instead.

We broke our journey home in Mildura, where we went for a ride on the paddlesteamer Melbourne through Lock 11 on the Murray river, The kids were astounded. 

Our last holiday stop was overnight at a caravan park. Once again, our cabin was quite adequate and the kids really enjoyed the heated pool.  It was a long drive home the next day, and we were very pleased to arrive. 

This trip took up most of the school holidays. The kids (12 and 10) coped pretty well being in the car for so long, and of course were assisted with their iPods in their quest for entertainment.

(This is not a sponsored post - we paid for everything.)  (Except the upgrade at the Stamford which was purely random and very gratefully accepted!) 

11 Apr 2015

Charm Square Swap and the resulting quilt top

Back in January, I signed up to be part of Ms Midge's charm square swap. This particular swap required all fabrics be designed by Anna Maria Horner. So a riot of colour and pattern was pretty much guaranteed. The stash came through, and I commenced cutting, and sent my squares off.

The parcel I received back was, as expected, full of wonderful fabrics.

I considered various options to use them. Usually, I admire swaps and put them away in the cupboard to be never seen again, but this time action was required.  In the end I opted for an applique effect, using my Sizzix cutter and it's songbird die.

The birds were set on a  red linen background and surprisingly only one seems to blend into the red.  It's only a top at this stage, but I'm looking forward to quilting it after the school holiday mayhem subsides. And then taking a photo without the clothesline.

3 Apr 2015

There's nothing like a country show

Growing up, the local country show was the first weekend after school returned after the summer holidays. Mum took this as a clear message, and my sisters and I spent weeks of those holidays sewing. Cooking had to wait till just before the show.

As the years went on, we focused on prizes. Ribbons were the ultimate prize and we aimed for the Most Successful awards. Junior Sewing and Cooking were our main priorities, although we also dabbled in collections and a little floral arranging.

1983 was my best ever year, when I won the ribbons for both junior cooking and sewing. In the photo below, i made my outfit, and my younger sister sewed hers. Our youngest sister was very excited to have won her first prize for her embroidered hanky.

It's 32 years later, and we're still entering the Nowra Show. Nowhere near as many articles, but our children are also making things. Which makes me appreciate my ribbons, and the angst all those entries must have caused Mum.  Then I look at the prizes my children have received and their happiness and understand why Mum did it.

My younger sister doesn't sew much anymore. Instead, she's expressing her creativity in making and decorating cakes. They're wonderful, and if she didn't live in England would be supplying all our birthday cake needs.

Bella, the youngest sister has moved on from hankies and makes wonderfully smocked and beaded dresses now. She's winning all kinds of ribbons, not just at Nowra, but also at the Canberra and Sydney Royals.

This year, my shawl won a ribbon. I was thrilled. Nearly as thrilled as I was back in 1983.  And that's saying something.

29 Mar 2015

Our summer of sport is over

We rounded out our attendance of World Cup Cricket with the game between Australia and Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground. There's nothing like watching your national team. The crowd had a very large and loud Sri Lankan component so it was even more satisfying to see Australia win. There have been very few games on free to air tv, so we've been relying on the imternet to follow what's happening.

The final is happening as I write this, and the two host nations Australia and New Zealand are competing for the prize. It's been such a lovely time I'm sorry it's come to an end. And I (mostly) aren't that concerned about who wins. They've both played well and we really do feel a kinship between our nations.

6 Mar 2015

More World Cup Cricket, Canberra

The second game played in Canberra was between the West Indies and Zimbabwe. We saw a spectacular world record partnership from the West Indies, and were very pleased to see Chris Gayle in such fine form, Zimbabwe didn't embarrass themselves.

 It was quite cold towards the end of the game, as this player keeping his hands warm in his pockets shows. Just after I took this he took a good catch, so he was clearly paying attention while looking very casual.

The final game in Canberra was between South Africa and Ireland. We had much better seats for this, and my son and nephew picked up lots of autographs from the players.  They were very pleased about this, as it hadn't happened where we were seated for the previous games.  This is probably enough reason for us to pay for more expensive seats.  Not in this case though, since I won these tickets from the Hyundai promotion.  We enjoyed being able to give our original tickets away to another family.
It was a beautiful evening.

After attending all these games, I'm getting pretty good at catering for them.  I visit Costco, where I buy some baguettes, cucumber, a roast chicken and Pepsi. We take the prepared chicken baguettes in a softsided esky, along with the chilled 600ml Pepsi bottles. Only unopened drinks in plastic bottles, less than one litre are permitted inside, so these fit the bill perfectly.  They're also $2 each, as opposed to the stadium price of more than $5. An assortment of fruit, biscuits, some chips and jelly snakes, and we're set for 7 or so hours of cricket watching,

I've taken my knitting along to several games, and gotten very little done - I need to count doing my current pattern, and get far too distracted. Usually, I'd just start something new, but I'm trying knitting monogamously this year.

So far in 2015 we've attended 10 international games of sport, which is just astonishing. We're so glad the soccer Asian Cup and this cricket World Cup games have been held in Canberra - it's been fabulous.

19 Feb 2015

Back to school vs Cricket World Cup

 It's a clash of two cultures in our house at the moment.  We're trying to take a methodical, routine-based approach to a smooth start to the school year, but this has been met head on by the excitement of the Cricket World Cup.

School's going well for us, and it was great to meet our children's new teachers. I think this year should go well.  A new friend and a surprisingly early school camp are helping me feel hopeful.

I've been indulging in the usual cleaning once the children have returned to school, so that's keeping me busy.  Lest you think this is a treat, it's not, but I'm finding as I age, order in the house increases my calm. Other people discover this a lot earlier, but there you go.

School pickup also provides me with me that oasis of calm, knitting time. I'm knitting along with Ysolda's Follow Your Arrow 2. I'm a week behind, but that's OK.

Australia and New Zealand are the joint hosts of this year's Cricket World Cup. There are three games being played in Canberra, and we're hoping to attend them all.

Last night we watched Bangladesh play Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan's first game in a world cup, so that was pretty exciting. I was really surprised though by how many Bangladeshi fans were present - it seemed like Manuka Oval was full of them.  

The atmosphere was different than the other games we've been to - lots of excited cheering, flag waving and dancing. It was great - we had a fabulous time. Other things were different too - very long lines at the coffee stalls, and no waiting at the bars. It was also 6 hours after the start of play before the first Mexican wave. But it was a good one - five times around the stadium.  There was only one other wave - and it was travelling in the opposite direction to the first.  This one only made it once around before being interrupted by a wicket.

The game was good too - despite being beaten, Afghanistan didn't embarass themselves.  The Bangladesh team had impressive fielding - always nice to see. 

I was glad to see the Zing wickets we'd enjoyed during the Big Bash League final were being used in the World Cup - they're so easy to see as a spectator. The big screens didn't seem to show many replays, so it was doubly important not to miss a single wicket.  One nice touch was the drummers stationed around the ground.  Their accompaniment to the bursts of music between overs really involved the crowd and added a touch of magic,

Next week, the West Indies and Zimbabwe!

5 Feb 2015

The end of summer

The last week of January is always an uneasy one. I'm feeling the strain of so much marvelous, uninterrupted family time, and the children are feeling the uneasy anticipation of returning to school.
We had a surprisingly cool summer holiday this year, so the blow up pool we finally splurged on hasn't really been used all that much. I've used it a few times in the evening after a warm, argumentative day, but the hordes of mosquitoes that joined me made it a less than relaxing experience,

On the bright side, this is the third day that my children have been back at school, and all is well.  This is a minor miracle, considering the anxiety that has plagued us for years.

So far my days  have been catching up on the errands I've been putting off in the school holidays.

14 Jan 2015

Hearts across the miles

I love Pinterest.  It makes me feel so happy, to know I have so many pretty things I can look at any time.  They're nicely categorised and provide endless inspiration.  My virtual life is so pretty, colour coded and creative.

Every now and then, I actually make something from the pretties, and this pin seemed irresistible.
There's a few different versions around, but these were definitely the nicest that I saw. The creator of these adorable hoops has extended her designs from this point, and sells some lovely things in her etsy shop.  

I'm lucky enough to have two sisters.  One lives around 10 minutes away, and the other around 10,000 miles away.  I made this for my English sister's birthday, which was yesterday.

When she first went overseas, phone calls were so expensive. We wrote letters, and waited and waited for replies.  Now we text, skype and email.  We have phone companies that provide international calls as part of package deals for no extra outlay.  I'm so grateful for these things. Our hearts will always connect us, but it's so nice to be able to be connected in the rest of our lives too.

9 Jan 2015

Starting the new year with a bang!

Well, not really.  We ended the old year with dinner with the inlaws and a couple of games of cards. Which we lost.

Then we celebrated with a sleep in.  It's a special thing, since our children are finally old enough do the same.  Soon, I expect I'll be complaining that they won't get out of bed.

On the second day of January it was the anniversary of starting this blog, back in 2006. Being the on-the-ball blogger I am, I completely missed this.  Oops.  To celebrate, here's a pavlova.
It's the perfect dessert at this time of year.

As always, I like to think I'll be organised in the new year. This year, 2015 will be the year of starting AND finishing new things. Quilts mainly, but there's room for some knitting as well.  January's never a very productive time for me with summer holidays.

I've also started the year with a splendid bruise, courtesy of a visit to the emergency room. Hours of bloodtests, xrays, and ECGs  thanks to a gallstone. It was my first stone, and I really don't want to grow any more, thanks very much body. Ultrasound has shown there's no more lurking at present, so long may they stay away, as it was just an awful time. Our hospital was fabulous, but it's not somewhere you want to go.

So at present I'm treating myself kindly, and taking it relatively easy. The Christmas decorations are still up, but that's OK, I'll get to them soon.