Saturday, 27 August 2016

Hello, I'm still here!

It's been a while! I'm still here I promise... It's just been a busy couple of months. The quick summary: work, kids, travel, work, kids, came down with influenza, work, kids, moved house. And no, sadly there not being any 'stitching' in there is not an oversight.

View from Castle Hill on our quick holiday to Townsville, June 2016

Well, that is until last Sunday. With the excuse of needing a wedding gift, combined with some energy now that I'm not sick and not moving, plus a desire to try out my new sewing space... a small 'weekend' quilt project was just the ticket. I decided that this was a good opportunity to use one of the Bali batik jelly rolls that I bought back when I was living in Bali.

I pulled out my quilt-pattern book Growing up Modern by Allison Harris (aka Cluck Cluck Sew)... I've flicked through the book countless times, dreaming of what I could make Sofia or Alex (because they don't have enough quilts between them!!) but never made anything from it. I decided the pattern 'Breezy' from the book was the perfect quilt to use one of my batik jelly rolls... so I got sewing, and cutting, and assembling!

Before long it had come together. The pattern was so easy to follow, and using the jelly roll meant hardly any cutting... I completed the quilt top within the afternoon, and after I had put the kids to bed laid it all out and pinned it ready for quilting.

I settled on stippling for the quilting, although straight lines would have looked equally good. It took me two evening sessions of around 90 minutes to get the quilting done, and then I was onto binding. Given it was a modern quilt, I decided to attempt machine sewing the binding down. Cluck Cluck Sew has a tutorial on this on her website, and I'd read it in the past intrigued but hand sewing the binding had always won out for me. Another evening session and the binding was down... and I was quite happy with the results. Not something I'd do for every quilt I make, but definitely something I'll do again.

I love the finished quilt, and really hope the newlyweds (who married yesterday here in Canberra) do to!

I also loved sewing in my new sewing nook... we've now moved in with my partner Al, combining our families and trying to make sure everyone has their own 'space' to be able to retreat to. What used to be a formal dining space is now a play room for Alex and Sofia but doubles as a sewing space for me. I'm looking forward to decorating my nook a bit more, but for now it's not a bad space at all... and I'm dying to get back in there and work on the next project... ok, or maybe finish an old project!!

Until next time (and I promise I won't leave it such a long time!) x

Friday, 20 May 2016

Stitching on the plane

A couple of months before going to Spain I signed up to part of Cinderberry Stitches' Mermaiden Quilt Club. I've been wanting to do a block of the month for quite some time and this one was too cute to pass by. Block 1 about two weeks before our departure date so I quickly traced the stitchery ready for some plane stitching!

It's amazing how much you get done on a project when on a long haul flight! I nearly completed the mermaids of Block 1 on the way over to Spain, with the final stitches made on the way back to Australia. 

On the return flight I managed to finished the mermaid stitchery and then did more work on another project I recently started, the first block of Rosalie Quinlan's "Simply Blessed" quilt. I like to have a project on the go that only uses one colour and is therefore easy to grab and do when I have only small snippets of time. This project will be ongoing for quite some time I'm sure, but it's nice to have something different to work on at times and proved a great back up piece for the plane.

A day or two after getting back home, block 2 of Mermaiden tales arrived. Again, the stitchery was quickly traced and prepared ready for another plane ride.. A much shorter and quicker trip to collect the kids who stayed with grandparents in Tassie while I was away.

I managed to get a fair bit done on the return trip to Tasmania, which was good as I haven't had a chance to do much more since I've been back and routine has returned to normality.

Hoping to get the last bit of detail done in the next couple of days as the postman should be delivering Block 3 any day now!!

Until next time x

Friday, 13 May 2016

Last day in Spain: Barcelona

Before we knew it, it was the last day of our holiday. Being back in Barcelona, we were keen to see the attractions we were too rushed to stop at right at the start of the trip. Rather than driving around and trying to navigate through busy Barcelona, we decided to get back onto the Barcelona City Tour bus which would take us exactly where we wanted to go. 

This time we sat on the other side of the bus and got much better shots of the Barcelona Olympic Stadium used for the 1992 games.

We stopped at the Catalonian National Art Museum, particularly to see the waterfall fountains out the front. 

Wandering around the museum grounds, there was a large get-together of locals, some of whom where dancing the traditional catalonian dance, and others waiting for a lunch of the biggest paella ever being prepared! On the other side of the museum was a busker playing beautiful spanish guitar. It was the makings of a relaxing and really enjoyable last day. 

After spending a bit of time around the museum, we walked towards the next bus stop. After a stop at Barcelona Football Club to get some souvenirs, we headed back towards our starting point taking in some final glimpses of Barcelona. The bus dropped us off a bit further up the beach from the hotel, so we leisurely walked back stopping for a last drink in Barcelona and a few final photos.

The time had come to drive back to the airport, return the car and bring our holiday to a close. We only spent 8 nights/9 days in Spain but we managed to see a lot. A massive thanks to my amazing partner Al who successfully and safely drove us almost 2,000 kms around the north-east quarter of the country. 

Our trip to 2016 road trip around Spain!
(Blue dots: where we stayed overnight; smaller white dots: where we stopped along the way)
We had such a great time and created so many wonderful memories. We have a list of places in Spain we'd love to visit again one day and spend more time exploring but our quick trip was such a great taster and we can't believe how much we actually got to experience.

Al and Simo (who is still completing the Camino de Santiago) have been in regular contact since we left Spain. As at today 14 May he is in a place called Sarria, about 115kms from the end point of the walk. We believe he has been doing quite well with very few issues, just founding some days more challenging than others. What an incredible thing he has already achieved and we wish him all the best in finishing the full 800kms soon!

Until next time x

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Spain Day 8: Valencia and back to Barcelona

On our morning in Valencia we made sure we got up early to head to the central markets. We had heard they were a "must do" in Valencia, and given our apartment was walking distance away we figured it would be a perfect place to find some breakfast.

We quickly saw why the markets were a must do. With so much variety and the vibrancy of colour in all the produce, it was a fabulous place to spend our morning. Merchants were happy to discuss with us their products (how jamon is prepared; where different olives come from, etc), so it was a great learning experience also. Not only did we have breakfast but we also stocked up to have lunch on the road.

Another "must do" in Valencia according to the interwebs was to check out the City of Arts and Sciences. Located slightly out of the way from where we were staying, we grabbed the car and decided to stop and have a look on our way out of town. 

The modern designs of the City of Arts and Sciences was such a contrast to the ancient architecture we had been seeing throughout our trip to Spain. The complex consists of various buildings including an IMAX cinema, an interactive science museum, and an opera theatre to name a few. The buildings with their sweeping lines and curves were so different from the intricate detail of the gothic designs we had seen in the old cathedrals. But they were intriguing in their own way... although some we simply found to be a bit odd and couldn't help but have a giggle.


Finally it was time to do our final leg of our Spanish road trip and head back to Barcelona where we would spend the night and one last day. The drive weaved from the mediterranean coastline and into the hills, then back to the coastline.

In no time at all we met our old friends the toll booths—we couldn't believe how many tolls we had come across while in Spain and how expensive they were, particularly in Catalona. Finally though, we passed through our last lot of tolls for our trip.

For our final night in Spain we had booked a bit of a special treat for our accommodation... W Barcelona, right out on a spit on the Barcelona coastline and overlooking the beach.

Admittedly we would have loved to have been in a room higher in the hotel for an even better view as ours was slightly hindered by another part of the building, but it was still magical—particularly once the sun went down and the night lights shined into the water.

We got dressed up for a special final night in Spain... unfortunately the restaurant we chose was a let-down but after wandering along the beach and finding a great spot for a Friday night cocktail, the evening was still classified a success!

Day 9, our last day, next time x

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Spain Day 7: Aranjuez to Valencia

Our excellent accommodation in Aranjuez (NH Collection - great value, great location, great service! We would definitely recommend it) was conveniently located across the road from the attraction that had brought us to the town: the Palacio Real de Aranjuez.

Our accommodation for our night in Aranjuez... NH Collection. 
Palacio Real de Aranjuez
My mum used to love listening to the acoustic guitar version of Concierto de Aranjuez. So when I discovered this beautiful piece of music I grew up hearing was inspired by the gardens around the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, I was keen to see it in person. This palace was commissioned by Felipe II in the 16th century, but finished in the 18th century by Ferdinand VI.

The interior of the palace was incredibly detailed and wonderfully maintained as a museum. Unfortunately we were unable to take photos inside so had to content ourselves with purchasing a post-card as a momento.

The dining room of Palacio de Aranjuez
We spent awhile wandering the gardens immediately around the palace and walking through the 'Jardin de la Isla'.

We would have loved to have loved to have gone to the 'Jardin del Principe' which by all accounts is exquisite, but when we finally figured out where to find it, it was a bit out of the way and we needed to make tracks for Valencia. We stocked up with fresh supplies for sandwhiches for a lunch on the go and hit the road.

Huge wind-mills were a regular sight from the car across Spain,
and the stretch from Aranjuez/Madrid to Valencia was no exception.
We got into Valencia late afternoon but it took awhile to find somewhere to park and then find the apartment we had booked. While it probably would have been easier if we had just booked into a hotel, the private apartment we had found on ended up being really well equipped and very comfortable. We loved how it had been decorated and could have easily have spent longer there.

The gentlemen who met us to let us into the apartment suggested we headed up to the cathedral to have a look before it got dark, and also recommended where to grab a bite to eat. The cathedral was another beautiful display of gothic architecture, and it was also great to see the central plaza.

Al in the Plaza de la Virgen
After a delicious dinner of Paella Valenciana we made our way to a flamenco show. I had researched it before we had left Australia, and thank goodness I did as I'm not sure we would have just happened upon the place! And the show was well worth it... spectacular to see and absolutely enthralling someone like me who loves dance!!

Towards the end of the show, one of the guitar players treated us to a spanish guitar solo... a beautiful rendition of Concierto de Aranjuez. What a perfect way to tie together a great day :)

Day 8 next time x