Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Baby Quilt finds a Home

In my day I have made quite a few quilts and I have taken many quilting courses over the years. But now I only seem to make baby quilts, small projects which can be finished in a relatively short time. Sometimes I make them for a specific baby and sometimes I just make them for fun.

At my age you don't get to attend many baby showers since most of my friends' children have completed their families, mostly being in their forties. On the other hand women are having children later in life as they first establish careers after long years in university. My own daughter did not have a child until she was 36 and many of her friends were late entries into motherhood. So occasionally I make a quilt for one of her friends and recently one of her single friends adopted a little girl from Guatemala so another opportunity arose to make a quilt.

The front of the quilt

However yesterday I was invited to an afternoon tea given by a friend for her daughter, a lawyer, who is married to an Italian, lives in Italy and is expecting her first child. It was a big event, probably 50 or more women and while many knew her daughter there were some who did not, which included me. My friend asked that one should only bring as a gift a piece of advice written on a card for the new mother. Of course many people ignored that, not the advice bit but the no gift bit, including me.

The back of the quilt

On hand, I had only one finished quilt, one with which I was not totally satisfied as a baby quilt. I loved the fabrics, the discontinued felines and dogs series by Laurel Burch, but did not have very much of them, so I could only make a small quilt. It has been finished for ages but I could never quite give it to anyone as I wondered about it as a baby quilt, but I decided it was now or never. What do you think? Too edgy for a baby?

Click to enlarge and see the amazing detail in the fabric.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Nearly-Weds

OK I am kind of half in love... With Ryan Miller, a sometimes annoying (just like a guy) character in a novel.

This is a review of The Nearly-Weds by Jane Costello. Yes, sorry guys, more Chick-Lit.

Zoe Moore is a kind, warm, down to earth, English girl from Liverpool. She works in a nursery.

She is utterly devastated when she is stood up at the church, by Jason (grrr) her long time partner who gets a serious case of cold feet.

Suddenly back at home with her parents Zoe finds it difficult to face her friends, neighbours and constant reminders.

She decides to make a clean break of it and signs up with a Nanny agency in the US. She is well qualified and they snap her up. Everything looks great, she is supposed to be going to work for a practically perfect family with light duties days off and to accompany them on an exotic holiday...

Then, as they say “The best laid plans...”

Poor Zoe actually gets to nanny in Boston for Ryan Miller and his two children, Ruby and Sam. Zoe feeling fragile looking after a family very hurt in their different ways by the death of Ryan's wife.

Very quickly she begins to wonder what she has gotten herself into and if she has bitten off soo much more than she can chew.

She is met at the airport by Ryan and the children, taken to their home and just left with the kids as he goes off to work.

The house is a trash heap and the yard is an overgrown jungle. When Zoe tries to put the kids to bed they practically morph into monsters. And she can't seem to get the wretched Jason out of her head.

She quickly realises Ryan is rude, inconsiderate, irascible, brittle, defensive, difficult, work obsessed, drinks more than he ought, and has been through a string of short relationships with beautiful women. Oh and he is hurt, handsome and in excellent physical shape.

Zoe sets about winning the kids round and restoring the house to some sort of order and it is a tall order too.

Thank goodness for the a group of nannies in the area where she will find companionship and a new best friend. I shall say no more about the story.

I really enjoyed this novel. It has plenty of fun and romance. It made me smile and even laugh a couple of times. It made me feel good.

There is a wide cast of good characters and Zoe and Ryan are a real contrast, Austin fans might sense a half familiarity in them as they spar.

The end is satisfying, with one tiny criticism... If I had my way I would have liked it to have a few more pages, just to top and tail things ^_^

If you read and enjoy it half so much as I did then I figure it will time well spent.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Protect(ion)


Slip-Slop-Slap is the name of a health campaign in Australia exhorting people to "slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat" when they go out into the sun, in order to protect themselves against an increased risk of skin cancer.

My husband has had three operations for skin cancer, including a malignant melanoma and a squamous cell skin cancer and he has had many basal cell cancers removed as well, no doubt due to his surfer dude youth in Australia. So we both cover up when out in the sun.

Yes, I always wear a hat outdoors and I also wear a sunscreen with SPF 60 rating which means I am pretty pale summer and winter.

Now you did not just think I had the one hat, did you? I have a quite the collection and in fact I have over twenty hats and some have featured on this blog before.




Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sydney -- The Great Southern Gaol

Early Sydney settlement

This post is in a way an introduction to book I read this week for The Short Book Club and it fits in quite nicely with the fact that I was recently in Sydney, my home town. There I attended a lecture called Convict Sydney and most of the information is culled from my notes, with a little checking as well. Incidentally the book is The Secret River by Kate Grenville and a book review post will follow soon.

Everyone likes to tease Australians about their "convict background" since Sydney was of course founded as a penal colony and they assume that we are all descended from those who were transported to Australia as criminals and that Australia was the only place where convicts were sent.

However transportation as a punishment was by no means a new thing for the British in 1788, since they had been transporting convicts to America since 1717 but that came to a halt in 1776 with the American Revolution. In all around 50,000 were transported to America.

When the prisons in Britain became full convicted felons were housed in overcrowded decaying old ships moored in coastal waters but conditions were appalling and transportation recommenced as the First Fleet sailed for Australia, eleven ships with (numbers vary depending on source) 573 male and 193 female convicts along with 247 marines, and with the ships' crews and some family members, making the first settlers around 1400 in number.

So who were these felons and what were the crimes they had committed? Many people had fled from the country to the cities where there was no work and crime was rife. But crimes warranting the death penalty (which could be commuted to transportation) included poaching, cutting down a tree, stealing goods worth 40 shillings or more. In fact there were hundreds of crimes for which the penalty was death, including a very strange one, namely being in the company of Gypsies for one month. Later the system of laws and punishments of the time became know as the Bloody Code, since so many crimes were punishable by execution.

Before setting sail many of the prisoners had already been on the ships for 7 to 8 months. They slept four to a berth, with the women segregated. At first they were chained but later they were freed and considering the voyage lasted for eight months and the crowded conditions it is amazing that only about four dozen people died and despite travelling 15,000 miles, not one ship was lost on the journey.

When the fleet arrived at Botany Bay Captain Arthur Phillip who became the first Governor of the new colony decided that it was not suitable as a settlement and after a preliminary exploration the fleet moved north to Port Jackson where he discovered a wonderful harbour which he described as

"the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security ...".

The fleet landed there on January 26th 1788 and Phillip named it Sydney Cove in honour of Lord Sydney, the Home Secretary.

But all did not go well in those first years as the soil was poor and sandy and, since there were few farmers there was a shortage of food which lead to rationing. The indiginenous people, the aborigines, were hostile and there was much conflict between the settlers and the aborigines. Despite the abundance of fish the settlers were not good fishermen and by the time the infamous Second Fleet straggled into port in 1790, in dribs and drabs, things were not going well. The Second Fleet had been "contracted out" to private businessman who kept the convicts in dreadful conditions, chained, beaten and starved so the survivors were hardly a help to the struggling colony.

But progress was being made despite these difficulties and the continuing conflict between settlers and aborigines who naturally resented being dispossed of their lands. In fact Governer Phillip himself was speared in the leg on Manly Beach. Phillip was a good governor on the whole, humane and sensible and he tried to utilize the convicts according to the skills they had acquired in Britain: brick makers, carpenters, shepherds, etc. Educated convicts were set to work as record keepers and the colony slowly began to be established.

But the formation and arrival in Australia of the New South Wales Corps, more colourfully described as the Rum Corps, for controlling the rum trade was ultimately their chosen profession in the new land, meant that the gaolers were not much better than the convicts, since the members tended to be troublemakers and parolees from military prisons who were looking for a new start in the fledgling colony. When Phillip returned to England in 1790 due to ill health, their commander Major Francis Grose took over and his rule was in no way as benevolent as had been Phillip's.

However the young colony slowly flourished, especially under Governor Macquarie (1821-1827), known as the great builder and by the time that the transportation of convicts to Australia came to a halt in the eighteen fifties, a mere eighty years later, the continent of Australia had been colonized in many other parts and the population stood at 1 million.

In all the total number of transported convicts was around 162,000 men and women and they were transported to Australia on 806 ships.

According to the lecturer, the fact that it began as a penal colony has given Australia or Australians the following series of characteristics which he called its convict legacy.

A belief in egalitarianism

Desire to shock

A dislike of wowsers

A hatred of whinging

Support the underdog

Gallows humour

Dislike of politicians

A strong belief in humanity


Wanting everyone to have a fair go

Taking the piss (not alone in this one as this expression comes from the Brits)

The Secret River tells the story of one man's experience as he was transported to the Great Southern Gaol, not long after it was established and I'll tell you more about next time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Purple


A random selection of purple photos from my archives

Well we call them purple crocuses, even if they are not quite royal purple

A bit of fun I had with a Christmas lights display, impossible to photograph
in the normal manner as we were moving on a miniature train. Yes there
is some purple in there somewhere.

A poster for my beloved Granville Island with touches of purple

While I have no purple clothes in real life I do have a very fun purple outfit in Second Life and I hope you will forgive this inclusion of a photo I took of my Second Life persona. She's much more daring than me and better looking too. Click to enlarge any of them.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tube Announcements

I guess I may have mentioned the London Tube before...

Well it struck me today just how inane some of their announcements really are. I was at a major Station today when they were telling us about the impact of engineering works on the service.

They said “Due to necessary engineering work”... I think they might have mentioned it was “planned” too.

I wondered. Did they tell us that it was necessary to distinguish it from the pointless and unnecessary sort of engineering work, that they (by implication) might be harassing us with from time to time? Like this time it was really necessary.

I mean why say it that way? If they hadn't used the word necessary I would have assumed any Engineering work they did was necessary. Not just done on a whim for a laugh.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter --- Buona Pasqua --- Joyeuses Pâques

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Alleluia, Alleluia


Image, Fra Angelico: The Resurrection, in the Museo di San Marco, Firenze

Friday, April 10, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Triangle


What can be more triangular than sails and while Sydney Opera House does not have "perfect" triangular sails, as an architectural wonder it is almost perfection and one of the best known buildings in the world.

Triangles like the sails on this boat could well have been the inspiration for Jorn Utzon, Danish architect who won the international design competition for the building.
Click to enlarge the images.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Perth -- City of lovely Trees and Green Parks

When we came to Canada it was for two years, because there would be a job opening up for the OS in his field at the University of Western Australia in Perth at the end of that time. Somehow we just stayed on in Vancouver and it was almost 50 years later that we went to Perth, on our recent trip to Australia.

Now I always joke about Vancouver being at the end of the earth but in a way Perth is even more remote. As you stand on the beach, looking west at the Indian Ocean there is nothing between you and South Africa, 5415 miles (88715 km) away. If you look to the East, the nearest significant city is Adelaide, 1329 miles (2139 km) distant.

Perth is a beautiful city built on the banks of the Swan River and stretching to the Indian Ocean. It is a city of green parks. Yes despite the lack of rain, the parks and sports fields are unbelievably green, kept so by underground bore water. In fact there's about 150 cubic kilometres of water under Perth and 40 per cent of its water come from underground.

It is a city of the most beautiful trees as you can see above, in its 1000 acre Kings Park, where this beautiful avenue of Lemon scented gums make a splendid canopy for the main roadway. Situated on Mount Eliza the park is a beautiful mix of natural bushland, cultivated gardens and lawns and a botanical garden, all cultivated to endeavour to ensure the conservation of native biological diversity and cultural heritage icons, while providing for the diverse range of visitor interests.

Many of the trees in the park are dedicated to a soldier who died in the First or Second World War and there are over 1100 plaques at the bases of the various trees. In fact the park is filled with many memorials including an eternal flame of remembrance. One of the most moving is the Bali Memorial, dedicated to the 16 Western Australians who died in the Bali Bombing on October 12, 2002. The memorial is beautifully place looking out over the Swan River to the Darling Range but in addition it is carefully placed so that a ray of sun enters the memorial at sunrise on October 12th each year.

A view of the plaque with the names of those who died in Bali. My photo does not do it justice but there is an excellent one here which gives you a better idea of the configuration.

Adjacent to this memorial is this stand of 16 native Australian grass trees which are extremely slow growing, growing about 1 metre every 100 years so these are about two hundred years and they can be transplanted with care. When I was a kid these trees were commonly called black boys but this in no longer acceptable.

Another slow-growing interesting tree is the Australian Boab tree, native to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They are deciduous in the dry season, only leafing out when the wet season approaches. How do they know? They are already covered with leaves when the first rains arrive.

Fruit/nuts of the Australian boab tree.

View from Kings Park towards downtown Perth, with the river
widening into a very large bay area

The fountain at the Pioneer Women's Memorial with its ever changing
display of jets of water

I think most people know that the black swan is unique to Australia but I have always associated it with Perth for some reason, although it is certainly found in other parts. They are to be treated with respect as they can do quite a bit of damage if they attack. However these were more interested in food as they hustled out of the Swan River to see if we would oblige.

I think I could have settled quite happily in Perth, despite its isolation, if we had actually ever moved there, for as you can see it is a very beautiful city.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Stripes


Maybe I am stretching this theme a little, but I am very fond of the stripes of nature which turn a plain green plant into a very interesting display. None are better than this variegated hosta and though I love all hostas, I find this simple one of the most pleasing additions to my garden.

Striped or variegated hosta


It's great to be back to Photo Hunt once again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From the Sunshine to the Rain Again

What a shock! After enjoying the sunny southern climes Downunder for the past five weeks, landing in Vancouver with a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius, along with rain and in some parts snow, was indeed a shock to the system.

Four very wonderful days were spent in the lovely city of Perth in Western Australia, but our return journey to Sydney was most unpleasant as we were caught in an Australia-wide baggage handlers' wildcat strike which at first delayed our flight by six and a half hours, but when it finally departed it was without the luggage and just made it into Sydney before the airport curfew at 11pm. Having arrived at Perth airport at 7.30 am and spending a good part of the day there we were glad to finally arrive in Sydney even if it was midnight. I have to commend the Qantas people who managed to keep their cool and their politeness that day and throughout the next days as they tried to sort out the luggage mess which was no fault of theirs.

At Sydney airport we spoke to the Qantas baggage service people before we booked into our Canadian flight two days later and they gave us little hope of it being with us on that plane since they had a room with 900 suitcases which they were still sorting out, but they said they would try to find it and rush it to Air Canada in time for our late morning flight. Lo and behold, there it was on the carousel when we arrived, much to our surprise and delight.

They even gave us $120 towards the cost of the clothing we had to purchase to see us through the previous days and luckily we purchased sweaters since it was so cold when we arrived, although I was wearing sandals which seemed rather daft.

The joys of flying in the modern era! Not only did we have this to deal with but for some reason my hand luggage, a small rollerboard suitcase with basically my computer and a few other items fell foul of security people as they passed it through the x-ray machine at least six times finally pulling the whole thing apart and xraying the contents in half a dozen separate trays even after they inspected everything visually. Funnily enough it had all passed through Perth security two days earlier without a single query but those Sydney people are made of sterner stuff. One by one the items were cleared of potential terrorist threat in the case of my mouse and a rock I bought in New Zealand for my rock collection. But a lipstick and a tiny bottle of hand lotion had to be inspected and then bagged separately (they don't even worry about that any more in New York when I travel there) but they confiscated my $30 special sunscreen and shampoo since they were 110 ml containers, even though half empty, but over the 100 ml size limit. Yes they had travelled from Canada and New Zealand and to and from Perth with no trouble for those security people but three men (yes it took three of them) in Sydney decided that they had to be checked more thoroughly. Even my hat beeped for the first time and had to be x-rayed.

Home, sweet home! I think I shall stay put for a bit and pray for Spring to come along soon.