Sunday, October 22, 2017

Friends, family, flowers ... and plenty of cake!

This week it was my turn to clock up another year of living, loving and creating, but my birthday was relatively low-key compared to the pizzazz of my amazing 90 year old mother-in-law's celebrations I wrote of in my previous post.



On my actual birthday I enjoyed lunch with four very dear girlfriends I've known for many years. Four of us have birthdays within 5 weeks of one another, so we added to the fun by celebrating together, at the home of one. 

From our table this was our view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and across to the Sydney Opera House. The sun shone, and even the clouds arranged themselves obligingly to look like cotton wool!
I thought that it was quite appropriate that the cake was decorated with tiny pieces of gold leaf, given my friends and I are approaching "golden oldies" status!



A few days later came another happy, though noisier family dinner with my son, daughter in law and grandchildren, Mr J and Princess 2. I'm sorry, but with these little "moving targets" I didn't manage any photos, except for one of the birthday cake which stayed put, even if it did threaten to slide off its shiny base.


A last minute rummage in the recycled birthday candle jar drew a blank on either of the digits of my real age, but with a choice of 40 or 82 I was quite relieved that the decision-makers settled on 40, the age I feel (at least on good days!).

The final birthday stop was yesterday, for afternoon tea with my sister and mother. 


If you look closely you'll see that this "cake" is actually a lemon tart, my very favourite dessert (when Key Lime Tart isn't on offer!). 

How about those gorgeous flowers, perfectly coordinating with my outfit? I don't want to take away from the cleverness of my mother's and sister's choice of flowers, but actually, I'm so darned predictable because I just love pink!


In rather more substantial ways my sister is predictable too: always positive in the face of life's adversities, always generous, and always forgiving, loving and compassionate. 


These little Willow Tree figurines, part of her birthday gift to me, are a treasured reminder.

Blessed.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Two books and a birthday

Books have always played a big part in the life of our family.  From youngest to oldest, we all enjoy turning the pages. Some of us also listen to audiobooks, one edits bestsellers, another is the head book buyer for a national chain.

And now we have not one, but two published authors! 

 

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Sydney launch of Wish You Were Here, a seriously entertaining memoir by my talented sister-in-law, Sheridan Jobbins

Sheri has been writing for many years, first as a journalist and then as a filmmaker and scriptwriter, but with this book she's turned the spotlight on herself, taken a period when life threw some hefty lemons her way, and made delicious lemonade. 


Basically, after her first husband broke her heart, she broke some china before running off to America to find herself, on a road trip across the country in a red Chevy Camaro. Of course I know the ending, but I'm still enjoying being taken along for the ride as I read this positive, life-affirming and insightful 'rom-com'.

A few days later we celebrated my mother-in-law Joy Jobbins' 90th birthday with another book launch - Life at the Palace.

 

On her 80th birthday Joy, Sheridan's mother, had published Shoestring, a memoir of her experiences as a working mother of five, 'tycooning' as an advertising executive in the male-dominated fashion and wool industry of the 1950s, while living 'on a shoestring' in the rural bohemia of Eltham, Victoria.  

Life at the Palace, A Necklace of Anecdotes, is the second of a trilogy she has planned, this time set in Sydney's Elizabeth Bay in the 60s and 70s, where the family found themselves living (for a peppercorn rent) in Berthong, an enormous harbour-side mansion that could not have been more different from Shoestring. 

The cast of colourful characters who lived there, or visited (I was one!), along with Joy's wider professional encounters with the likes of Prince Phillip, Pierre Cardin and Patrick, Earl of Lichfield, makes for an entertaining romp with a touch of the bittersweet, periodically 'interrupted' by other members of the family for a tiny reality check.



 Along with the book launch it was a wonderful afternoon of celebration and dancing, which of course included Joy's theme song "Fly me to the Moon".



Joy's another positive woman who knows exactly what to do with the lemons life gives her. Margaritas, anyone?

* * * * * * * *

Wish You Were Here, by Sheridan Jobbins, is available at all good bookshops in Australia, as well as online through Amazon and Book Depository if you are overseas.

Life at the Palace (A Necklace of Anecdotes), by Joy Jobbins, is available in Australia here



Friday, September 15, 2017

Let's get blogging again!


I'm truly sorry for the "radio silence" here over recent months. If you follow me on Instagram (@darlingdi) you'll know I'm still alive and quilting, taking photos, working and spending time with family, friends and my gorgeous labrador, Chester (@chesterthewonderlab). 

If not, I hope I can fill in the gaps for you soon, as I break into a rather breathless and ungainly run in an effort to catch up.

If there's one thing guaranteed to spur me into blogging, it's the opportunity to praise my friends, in this case all the wonderful quilters, past and present, who have been part of St Mark's Quilters. 

Last week marked a rather special anniversary for us. 

It was eight years since the Sunday when did something very unusual for me! I stood up in our church (eek!) and announced to a full congregation, consisting of exactly two quilters (myself and Di B), that we were about to hold a Stitchin' Mission, five weeks of beginner quilt making classes, to be taught by my friend Linda Hungerford


You can read the background here . 

Di B and I (Team Di) had each made sample quilts in the weeks leading up to that Sunday reveal, and had them on display, with a clip board on hand to sign up those keen to be part of our venture.


Something amazing happened!

Two dozen eager beginner quilt makers came forward to learn to make a quilt for the children enrolling at the brand new KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (these days known as "The Marcia"), many experienced quilters offered to be helpers in the classes, and several other friends made quilts to the specifications required, to add to the number.


Heatwave conditions on the last day of class did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of these generous-hearted ladies, seen here with the results of their work. 


Linda's infectious enthusiasm had made the 5 week course so much fun that quite a few wanted to continue, and so St Mark's Quilters was born.

Over the intervening years a few quilters have come and gone, but we've retained a core bunch of around 12 to 15 ladies who come from near and far to stitch and share friendships on the second Saturday of the month from Feb to November.

We've broadened our vision and now also make tiny Blankets of Love and humidicrib covers for Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit.


If you have a little time, you might be interested in clicking on the Pages tabs to see some of the creations of our little group, an estimated 800+ quilts (not all photographed). Not bad for a group that grew from almost nothing!

Di B and I are thankful for Linda's initial boost and teaching, and proud to be part of this diverse but passionate group, whose ages from youngest to oldest range over 60 years.

Before I leave you (but not for long!) I'd like to show you my latest quilt finish for The Marcia. 



I can't claim to have pieced the quilt top, having found it as an "orphan" languishing in our SMQ stash, but it made me smile with the clever fabric choices someone made, and deserved to be finally finished.
I quilted it (in the ditch) and bound it, and here it is, proving that a quilt doesn't have to be complicated to become a potential treasure for a little child.
We don't usually give our community quilts a name, but I thought I'd make an exception this time and call it "Frogs Just Want to Have Fun". 

(Apologies for the Cyndi Lauper ear worm that will probably stay with you all day!)


Sunday, April 16, 2017

My A to Z of Quiltcon Savannah {Part 1}



This morning, as I prepared to ruin a second batch of sugary, buttery pralines in my quest to replicate the delicacies that had me salivating in Savannah (don't worry, I saved them just in time!) my thoughts turned to Quiltcon 2017.

I realised it's been a month since I arrived home, high time I took up the story of my amazing USA holiday where I left off.

If you haven't already done so, and you don't mind a few 'spoilers', you can always pop across to Linda's blog and read on. Unlike her scatty and disorganised friend here, she has conscientiously kept up with her blog posts, already sharing all the fun we had at Quiltcon and beyond.

So here's Part 1 of my A to Z of Quiltcon 2017 highlights!

A is for Awards Ceremony, early on the first day, necessitating a pre-dawn start for our drive from Hilton Head to the Savannah International Convention Centre. As slides of each award winning quilt flashed up on the screen there was much cheering for the winners, but I was most excited for Aussie quilters Katherine (Kat) Jones (@twocatsquilts), winner of Best in Show, and Jess Frost (@elvengardenquilts), winner of 3rd place in Improvisation.

"Scattered" by Jess Frost
B is for "Bling", Kat's stunning Best in Show winner. Measuring just under 100 inches square, it looks like a giant princess cut diamond. Kat paper pieced each of the four segments with an identical pattern, but using different shades of solids to cleverly replicate the subtle play of light on a real diamond. If you think it looks amazing here, believe me, it's breathtaking in real life!

"Bling" by Katherine (Kat) Jones
C is for celebration, something we Aussies do well! At the end of day 1 we were more than happy to raise a glass to Kat (centre in this photo) and Jess (back home in Australia). 
(L to R) Michelle Hickson, Di Jobbins (me), Katherine Jones, Lorena Uriarte and Monique Nugent
C is also for the warm and generous domestic machine quilting diva Christa Watson (@christaquilts), whose book, "The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting" (co-authored with Angela Walters), is one of my most valued references.
With Christa Watson
Since we live on different continents, and I may never have the opportunity to take a class with her again, I was super keen to soak up as much knowledge from Christa as I could.

So I attended both her lecture "Quilting on your Home Sewing Machine: Tips and Tricks", and her 3 hour class "Free-Motion Alternatives to Straight Line Quilting".


Her spray basting technique is one I'm definitely planning to try, and I was encouraged when she said she uses the same favourite double-batting combo as I do (cotton on the bottom/wool on the top). Yay! I was doing something right!


In her class she patiently taught us more than two dozen machine quilting designs, starting with drawing out a pattern in our sketchbooks, to machine stitching the design on a pre-prepared quilt sandwich. 

She even allowed us to fondle her quilts and see her work up close, without a white glove in sight!



 I'm in love with Christa's geometric chains, swirls (above) and pearls (below).

Pebbles and jagged stipples (below) 


And switchbacks, pebbles and swirls (below)


D is for domestic machine quilting , the subject of the hands-on class I took with Kathleen Riggins (@kathleenquilts), "A Cheater's Guide to Free Motion". 

With Kathleen Riggins
I may have been overdoing the quilting tuition just a tad, but, having flown more than 15,000km to be here, I was going for the full-immersion domestic machine quilting experience, keen to learn from all my quilting icons! 

I drool over pictures of Kathleen's work on Instagram and I follow her blog, but she's a longarmer, and I only quilt on a "mature-aged" domestic Bernina. So when I saw last year that she was teaching a class at Quiltcon using domestic, sit-down machines I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.


Here are some of my bumbling attempts at swirls and pebbles. Kathleen's class taught me many things, but most importantly the need to practice, practice, practice!

E is for "Every Quilter is a Teacher", the featured lecture by keynote speaker, Angela Walters. While dazzling us with slides of her amazing quilts, she also shared how her husband's grandpa, a quilter, had been her mentor. A warm and charismatic teacher herself, she encouraged us to nurture other quilters along this creative path. 

With Angela Walters (Don't you love that quilted chevron tote of hers!)
And she was happy to pose with this breathless fan-girl. How lovely is that!

More soon ;-)


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Going to all the places - Charleston

It's time for us to pick up the pace on our road trip, moving right along to beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. On our day here we saw a little of both town (with a horse and carriage guided tour) and country (visiting romantic Magnolia Plantation).

The advantage of a guided tour is that it allows you to see all the highlights, and feeds you the history as you go. However the disadvantage is that there's no time to jot anything down. Consequently this post consists mainly of photos I snapped along the way.

 

Our tour started near the old Charleston City Market, and as we walked through on our way to meet our horse and carriage I couldn't resist photographing these bright wire bowls from Africa. I have one of my own at home, and the workmanship of the women who weave the plastic coated telephone wire into the bowls is amazing.

 

Here is just a sampling of the gracious historic homes we passed by on our tour.

 

 

 These pretty houses are part of what's known as Rainbow Row, for obvious reasons.
 
At the end of the ride we tipped the guide, but when we asked the horse if he'd like a tip too, he said 'Nay!'

 
A short drive out of town took us to the beautiful plantation of Magnolia Gardens. 

 

It was quite a wild garden, with nature only just held I check, but the driveway reminded us so much of the movie Forrest Gump, and live oaks were everywhere, Spanish moss dripping from their branches.

 

Here we saw magnolias blooming, of course, as well as azaleas and camellias.

 

I added another alligator warning sign to my growing collection.

 

And gasped at the stunning reflections on the still waters.

 

This Plantation has been in the grounds of the Drayton family for fifteen generations, and the Rev'd
John Drayton developed the gardens in the 1840s.

The house is interesting, though only a small part of it is original, having succumbed to fire during the Civil War.

 

African slaves worked on what was originally a rice plantation along the Ashley River, and the slave huts where they lived have been preserved.

 

By the late afternoon it was time for us to move on to our next stop, Savannah, but not before taking a look around this quaint little roadside store, the Carolina Cider Company.

 

Yes, we did buy a snack for the onward journey!