We basically wandered around Melbourne. Yep. Really all we did, not much else to tell. Not even any pictures. We crashed early since we had to get up early to catch the first of the three flights we needed to take to get back to Portland.
Today we are doing a more traditional wildlife tour in wildlife parks and conservation centers on Philip Island. The one true wild experience will be the penguin parade. So we wasted time in the morning until we had to meet our tour bus at 10:40.
Our tour bus driver was Graham, and he came with a lovely Scottish brogue and a slight resemblance to Gordon Ramsey, if Gordon Ramsey were bald. He was quick with the sardonic humor, so I liked him immediately. Our first stop was a wildlife sanctuary about 90 minutes outside of Melbourne. This was our opportunity to get a picture with a Koala if we wanted. Matt and I didn’t want to. I did get to see some kangaroos and wallabees up close and even got to feed them.
Of course we were drawn to birds…
When we got back on the bus to head to the next stop, Graham took a moment to get everyone to sing happy birthday to Matt. I didn’t plan it, didn’t even mention it was his birthday so that was a fun surprise. Matt shared later that Graham had asked him which one of our party was celebrating a birthday, so I assume the travel company let them know.
From the wildlife sanctuary we went to the Churchill Island Heritage Farm, or something like that. There we stopped for a spot of tea, and walked through the living history farm. They demonstrated dog assisted sheep herding, sheep shearing, and other farm craft. We were distracted by the birds.
After the farm we were off to a Koala sanctuary, because it’s always all about the Koala. There cute and all, but they aren’t that exciting. All they do is eat eucalyptus, which is a poison, and then sleep to conserve energy while they process it. They are like the Bene Gesserit witches of the animal kingdom in a constant water of life ritual.
When we were done with the Koala’s, which for me was about 5-minutes after I saw one, but for the rest of the group was about an hour later, we finally headed off to the Phillip Island center. This was right of the coast and the wind was pretty fierce. The first point of interest was the nobbies, which is their term for the rugged coastline I think, I don’t know, it looked like the Oregon Coast line. Since it is spring there, the seagulls were nesting and their were a bunch of baby seagulls that were pretty cute.
As the sun started to reach the horizon we reboarded the bus and headed over to the penguin parade viewing area. We had purchased the Penguin Plus package and if you ever go and see this natural phenomenon, spring for the plus. Essentially there are two viewing areas, a big grandstand, and smaller wooden bleacher. We were on the smaller bleacher.
By now you may be wondering what the heck a penguin parade is, so I’ll sum it up for you. You are basically watching the penguins come home after a long day out on the water. And yes it is as adorable as it sounds. Once the sun sets a group of about 20 of them emerge from the surf and waddle onto the beach. They stand there and check things out, look for predators, etc. Then they run back and do a belly skid into the water. A couple of minutes later some more of them emerge from the water and scan the area. If anything spooks them, and they are pretty skittish, they flee back to the water.
Finally a group of them decides they are brave enough to go in and they head for the rocks, amble up and over a 50 foot span of low rocks before they climb the sandy hill and pause right by the small platform that we were on. That is what you get with the penguin plus! By the time they reach the platform they have gotten through the dangerous part of the hike so they take a little load off and preen themselves before they continue their trek into the hills to their individual burrows to go feed their young. No one is allowed to take pictures because that disorients them, so you will need to go to the website to see what we saw.
We are off to Melbourne today. We really won’t miss the Menzies hotel, and we wouldn’t stay there again. Pros: good location, comfortable bed. Cons: so many, where to start.. The room never got cool, it was worn out, a little grungy in spots, the furniture had seen better days, and the bathroom was bizarre. I don’t mean weird Australian plumbing bizarre, I have gotten used to the toilets. I mean bizarre bathtub shower with only half a shower door (the side closest to the shower head), weird step up tub that put the shower head at a height which required Matt to crouch to get under it. And then there was the breakfast buffet where, three days running, the perfectly cooked scrambled eggs were totally ruined by eggshells. WTH! Is this an Aussie thing, is everything really more dangerous here? And then there was the concierge who was basically useless for arranging transport back to the airport and also seemed to have zero knowledge of where the oldest beer brewer in Sydney was located. I’m not sure what a concierge is for if not those things.
We grabbed a taxi to the airport, sailed through check-in and security, (we didn’t have to take off our shoes, and the big bottle of sunblock in my bag was not a problem), and settled in to the AirPort wifi. That is the other thing that sucked about the Menzies, there was basically no free wifi except for a half hour of what amounted to dial-up speeds in the lobby.
A couple hours later we were in Melbourne checking in to the Crown Promenade. And what a room. Pretty much everything the Menzies was not. Modern, clean, no bizarre shower, and two walls of windows looking out on the cityscape. We dumped our gear and headed out to explore.
We hoofed it around the downtown area with no real destination in mind. I was getting peckish so I ducked down a small side street that looked like it had an Indian restaurant, but on closer inspection it was Thai, I didn’t want Thai, so I dived down the street a little farther and convinced Matt to try this restaurant called Dip In. The premise being you order some dips and some bread and proceed to dip, which is what we did and it was delicious!
We wandered a bit more after that and then decided to hop on the free city circle tram which takes you around the city center and announces all the things you can do and see. Unfortunately the tram only runs until 6 on Mondays, and we got on at 5ish, so when the tram stopped at 6 we were a half hours walk from the hotel. Alrighty. So we hoofed it back. Did I mention my feet hurt?
Tomorrow we see penguins.
Day 4 in Sydney was a free day, no tours scheduled, just Matt and I wandering around with no pressing goals. We got up and headed to The Rocks, which is an older area of Sydney that has a weekend market much like Portland. Portland’s market is considerably bigger, but Sydney’s market had better stuff, a lot of clothes, nice clothes, it was kind of odd.
We caught lunch at a pub while we plotted our next move. It was 90 degrees, so our next move was a mueseum, the Hyde Park Barracks. Australia has a rich history as a penal colony, and the Barracks was a processing point for incoming convicts transported from Britain.
From the Barracks we wandered back into the Royal Botanic Gardens to see if we could locate the Flying Foxes. Unfortunately they began an abatement program in 2012 or 13 and the flying foxes no longer roost in the gardens. :(. No giant bats for us, but Mattsel Adams has started his pond lily series.
Thoroughly hot and tired by this point we headed back to the hotel for a brief rest befor we went back to Darling Harbour for dinner.
One of the goals of this trip was the opportunity to see budgies in the wild. We haven’t. But we have seen a ton of wildlife. Today we went on a wildlife tour run by Boutique Tours Australia. As opposed to a giant bus traveling through a wildlife park, this tour was small, just ten people, and we went out onto rangeland and into the bush. Our vehicle was a 4-WD Mercedes van driven by our Naturalist guide Steve. Steve was a crack-up. Besides us there was a couple from LA, and a group from France.
The instructions the tour company gives you about appropriate clothing are pretty clear, sturdy shoes and weather appropriate clothing. Despite this, three folks had on flip flops, and one of the women in the French group was wearing what appeared to be heels, though the sole of her shoe was perfectly flat. I’m sure there is a name for the style, but I’m also sure I don’t care. Despite the poor shoe choices, they were all fairly pleasant company. And to Steve’s credit, he didn’t baby them, we did just as much hopping out of the vehicle and hiking around as any tour would. I know, I asked.
Here is what we saw:
All that was during the day. Part of the tour included stopping for dinner at a pub. Then we headed back out with a spotlight for some night spotting. No pictures of that obviously. We didn’t get back to the hotel until almost 11 pm.
Friday the 21st dawned bright and early for us, since we had to catch a ride to our tour transport. Our travel agent booked us a 3 1/2 hour coast walk in Bundeena. We picked up one other person for the tour, another American, and drove to Cronulla to meet our tour guide and take the ferry to Bundeena. During the ride over we learned several astonishing things about Australia, I’ll share a few:
- Minimum wage is $17 and change Australian and set by there federal government, roughly $15 American. This explains why tipping is not really expected here.
- The real estate prices are insanely high.
- The healthcare system is similar to the Canadian model, and when we asked how well that worked, the driver had no complaints.
- They get a guarranteed 4- week paid vacation every year, and when they have been working for the same company for 10-years they get a bonus 6-weeks of paid vacation, and at 15-years they get a bonus of 8-weeks paid vacation, all administered by the federal government.
- As a coastal city, some of the beaches have walled off ocean pools for swimming in, so you can swim without worrying about sharks? I don’t know, but it was pretty cool.
- The National park we walked in on our tour is the second oldest national park in the world, second to Yellowstone. Though of course there is some argument around that and dates.. Eye roll.
- The Aboriginal culture is the oldest surviving culture on the planet.
In Bundeena we walked along an amazing beach next to an aboriginal midden, viewed some aboriginal carvings, walked along some sandstone outcroppings and made our way down to a rugged sandstone beach, before looping back to the ferry. All the while our guide regaled us with stories and information about aboriginal culture and Australia in general. She also identified the various plants and animals we were seeing.
I have to admit I wasn’t sure about the value of having a guide, but she really provided the context for what we were looking at and since she was from Scotland, we also got an outsider/insider perspective about Australia which I really appreciated. Otherwise it would have been just a beautiful walk in a beautiful place, which would have been fine too.
We totally saw some badass pigeons with little mohawks!
We also heard and saw another cockatoo and a kookaburra bird. We made it back to Sydney after a harrowing return van ride at about 2pm. Where we almost rear ended other cars four times, and took the curly cue route back to the hotel. Since the temp was in the 90s, we grabbed some lunch and came back to the hotel for swim in the pool and some lazing about.
When we were sufficiently lazed, okay when we woke up, we headed over to Darling Harbour to find dinner. Darling Harbour appears to be a trendy night spot with a ton of restaurants and beautiful people. It is actually kind of annoying how well dressed and attractive the Aussies tend to be.
Dinner was awesome, the seafood here is really fresh, and they know how to cook it!
I’d post more pictures, but the hotel wifi is complete garbage.
I suppose I chose to ignore the basic fact that getting to Australia, by the fastest means possible, would take about an entire day. It did. It was unhelpful that the Delta flight we were originally booked on had mechanical problems. Note to self, when the plane has to go visit the “garage” before departure, just make the call then and there to book yourself on a later, but still viable flight to meet your connections. Matt and I chose to stick with our flight, which brought us to this next and terrifying announcement from the flight crew, and I quote, ” Apologies ladies and gentlemen. We thought we were ready to take off, but an error message popped up on screen. We have a manual here that provides us with steps to get rid of the message, those have not worked. The maintenance crew says all we need to do is turn it [the plane] off and back on again… So we are headed back to the gate.”
Ummm no. NO! I don’t think I can fully explain it but no, a reboot should not be the solution to a broken plane. I require the problem and the solution to be more complex than the troubleshooting steps I would use for my home PC.
Anyway, we managed to meet our connecting flight to Sidney that evening. There were other bizarre occurrences, but I won’t bore you with the details.
We survived our 15-hour flight. Virgin Australia was a lovely airline to ride. Free movies, free games, free TV shows, and each seat had a little gift package with an eye mask, ear plugs and a blanket. I seriously doubt I will go back to United Airlines. Unfortunately, and I think, hilariously, our meals were not just vegetarian, but also gluten and dairy free. Still tasty, but the rice cakes felt more like a punishment, than a starch. A starchy punishment.
Sidney was a balmy 75 degrees when we landed, we caught our lift to the hotel, dropped off our bags and went to explore the surroundings and find a lunch spot.
Since we were trying to stay awake as long as we could to fight off jet lag, we hoofed it over to the botanic gardens and wandered the grounds. While we wandered, we saw quite a few birds.
Seriously, parrots everywhere! I am going to move here and be a crazy parrot lady, wandering the gardens, feeding them, and muttering to myself.
We also saw the Sydney Opera House, which, up close, is tiled on the exterior, which was unexpected. It reminded me of the outside of the space shuttle. By the time we were finished with the opera house, we were both hankering for some refreshment, so we fled the gardens and found a local brew house, Lord Nelsons Brewery or something. Excellent beer, crazy expensive, $9 AUS, $7.92 US.
We called it a day after that and went back to the hotel for dinner and then to bed.
I will post pictures as soon as I get a wifi connection that isn’t powered by sedated hamsters on a broken treadmill.
I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it, but here goes. I have wanted, for several years, to be the owner of an adult sized bean bag and/or ridiculously huge pillow. Yes, there it is, I have been salivating over the thought of owning what amounts to a sack of cloth filled with foam. So what has stopped me all these years from making the leap? Well, just check out the prices! Ridiculous! The poshest maker of “Sacs and Pillows” (they spell sack wrong because it’s cool?..), charges upwards of $400 USD. And their competitors, while cheaper, significantly so in fact, are still a little to expensive in my mind for what amounts to a bag of foam, and most don’t give you a clue about what kind of foam they put in the bag. Which was important to me..
So I decided it was silly that someone with a sewing machine, a serger and a modicum of sewing skills would pay for someone else to make a bag of foam. So I made my very own Giant Pillow. It was a long and interesting journey.
I spent weeks pouring over the sites of main manufacturer. Examining their marketing shots in detail and trying to determine what the heck they used to fill their Pillows. Oh, and I eventually decided that a pillow would be easier, and nicer looking than a round sack. Most high-end noveau chic bean bags, the really comfortable ones that you sigh over when you sink in, are not, I repeat not, filled with beans. That is so 1985. Now they are filled with foam, and none of the companies are very forthcoming about what kind of foam. And, there are a lot of foam choices out there! Really this is not a simple decision.
Figuring out what kind of foam to use was where I spent the majority of my research. The most expensive manufacturer uses something called durafoam. Their competitor uses some sort of self branded foam called “comfy foam” or they just don’t tell you what they use, but are quick to tell you they are the best. Really? Your are the best are you? Then tell me what kind of freakin’ foam you use!
Luckily for me, durafoam is a brand name, and while that doesn’t help much, because no one seems to sell it to consumers, it does, with a little digging on the interwebs, reveal that this product is a foam rubber and that is the info I needed. Because you see, there are only so many places a consumer can order bulk quantities of shredded foam, and even fewer places where you can order shredded rubber foam. I didn’t want to go to all the trouble to make this thing, only to fill it with something that would degrade over time and lose it’s loft. So I had my foam picked and now it was time to get to sewing.
- 4 yards of cheap, semi-tightly woven cotton for the liner, you want air to be able to pass through relatively easily, but you don’t want foam particles escaping. I spent $12.50
- 2 upholstery zippers, one at 45″ for the liner and one at 72″ for the cover. Get upholstery zippers, not sleeping bag zippers or some other chunky zipper. You don’t really want to feel it when you are lounging on the pillow. I spent $8.00
- 4 yards of nicer decorator fabric for the cover. I spent $36.00
- between 40 and 50 lbs of your choice of foam – for me that was shredded natural laytex. I spent $160 with shipping. I ordered from http://www.foamsource.com
So in total on materials I spent $216.00, that is about $200 less than the poshest manufacturer of giant pillows.
I scored some epic liner fabric from Ikea (yes they sell fabric too!) for $3/yard.
Instead of trying to make the pillow the size of all the other pillow shaped sacks on the market, I let the fabric be my guide. This particular fabric was 55″ wide, so my liner ended up measuring 55″ x 75″. Most of the commercial sacks measure 50″x”70″. Why is it 5″ longer? I don’t know. Stop pestering me with silly questions.
The zipper was installed along the 58″ width and slightly off center. I figured this would make for easier foam filling, and it kind of did because it created a bag of sorts. I didn’t want the zipper on one of the side seams, which I thought might experience too much stress as the pillow is used. Also, if you have never tried it, I would highly recommend installing a straight zipper on the flat. I installed the zipper into the back two pieces of the liner and then sewed the whole thing together. Marvelous! I have only ever installed apparel zippers, hidden and lapped, and doing this on the liner was sooo easy.
Once the zipper was installed it was time to add the foam. I thought ahead on this one and dragged the liner and the 50lbs of foam, (which came in two 25lbs bags) up stairs to the room where it was destined to finally reside. You see, I had envisioned trying to wrestle 50lbs of foam up my stairs in a large and unwieldy sack, and while I’m sure comedy would have ensued, I’m also sure anger, rage and marks on the wall would have followed.
So, up to the loft and in with the foam! The first bag I just dumped in, easy as pie. The second bag I ladled in with a 3 gallon plastic bin. I wasn’t sure, initially if I wanted to put all 50lbs in, though I eventually did.
For the cover, I chose a brown microsuede I found on the clearance rack at Joann Fabrics. I was given strict instruction by the DH that the liner be soft, so microsuede fit the bill and it breaths slightly as well for easier fluffing of the pillow. I made the cover smaller than the liner by 5″ on both length and width. I installed a 72″ zipper lengthwise and trimmed it down to 65″ so the zipper didn’t run into the end seams on either end. The cover threw me for a loop for a while as I pondered how to install the zipper lengthwise, have it run down the back center of the pillow, and do all this without having to cut two pieces for the back of the cover like I did for the liner. I really don’t like cutting fabric more than I have too and I didn’t want to throw the sizing off on the back if I botched the zipper seam allowances. Why the center back zipper? Well, imagine trying to shove a 50lb sack into a another sack… much better to lay it open down the center, put the liner on top and than tuck in around the perimeter.
What I ended up doing was sewing the long seams and installing the zipper on one said long seam. Than I shifted the the whole thing over a quarter roll, matching up the long side seams so they met in the center of the front and back of the pillow. I sewed up the shorter side seams and, Voila! Center back zipper created without the need to cut more fabric. What! I cut on my dining room table, it’s not that big!
Since I new the cover, being smaller than the liner, would have more stress on the seams, all the seams were sewn twice and I kept the stitch length relatively small. I serged all edges. I probably didn’t have to, but what the heck, I have serger, so why not.
It is freaky comfortable, and the laytex foam doesn’t get hot, which I was initially concerned about. It also doesn’t smell unpleasant, (another thing I was concerned about) but there is a scent, kind of like sugar cookies, but with a slight rubber tinge to it. Since there is 50lbs of foam in it, it is kind of a pain to move, but it isn’t going very far, so this isn’t a big deal. All in all, it was a great project and now we have something to fight over when we want to go read a book.
So… After it took me somewhere around 3 years to complete my first quilt, because I just had to make a queen size one and then hand quilt each little piece. I figured I probably wouldn’t make another one. Well, never say never. I present to you the Owlwedge quilt.
I did a few things differently this time around. The first thing I did, was actually have an idea of what the finished product was going to look like. I saw this pattern on Fon’s & Porter’s Love of Quilting, which is this cute little public television quilting show that is actually quite enjoyable to watch. I was hankering to do another quilt, one that was more useable than the first one. (Side Note: The first one, what with it’s years of work and hand quilting, is relegated to the reading/guest room (put away when guests arrive) and pretty much pampered, because I’m not sure how to wash it and the backing fabric is white. Eek!)
So for my second quilt I wanted a work horse. I wanted a top I could quickly piece. I wanted to use batiks. I wanted a set of darker fabrics. I wanted the back to be a darker fabric as well. And there was no way on this green earth I was hand quilting it, so I knew it was destined for the longarm. And voila!
Things I learned with this quilt.
- Having a pattern is a good thing, it lets you order the write amount of fabric and stuff.
- I ordered all my fabric online from fabric.com. Ordering batiks over the internet is, well,.. you might be surprised by what you get. I was pretty sure I didn’t order any browns. I tried to stick with blues, purples and greens. To be fair, a good portion of the brown you see in the pic above was bluish green.
- Wedge and other angled pieces do need to be offset just slightly when piecing so that they aren’t all caddywampus. It didn’t matter much for this quilt but it will matter for my next project.
- Having the quilt quilted by a longarm quilter is awesome. Having same said quilter prepare and attached the binding to the front of the quilt is even awesomer! <— that is totally a word. The quilt was quilted by Sally Howard of the Quilting Cottage.
- I really need to make my stitches bigger when I secure the binding to the backside of the quilt. For some reason my default is about an eighth of an inch. So not only did it take forever, I think I pulled a hand muscle! Who does that? I do apparently.
- Hilarious backing fabric, even if it doesn’t totally match the colors on the front of the quilt, is worth it if it makes you smile.
And finally, what quilt would be complete without an arty picture of it.
I never thought I would be a quilter. Turns out I was wrong. Next project is a Carpenter’s Star, don’t expect it anytime soon.
About a year and a half ago, a work buddy of mine and I decided to put together our FEMA recommended 72-hour emergency kits for our families. This wasn’t just a trip to the Red Cross website, oh no, we put together our own First Aid kits, bought our tarps, our rope, our water, our food, our gloves, whistles, dust masks, rain gear, flashlights, etc. And then I had to find something to put it all in, because apparently it didn’t provided an added decorative element to living room…
So whilst browsing at home depot, (what? you don’t do that?) I came across this container on wheels and thought, yes, this will do just fine.
And no, I really can’t be bothered to remove the stickers, and yes, naturally we began using it as a coffee table, because we really can’t be bothered to actually buy one of those. So here is the dilemma. I really like having the emergency kit in the house and within easy reach so I can rotate out the food and expiring first aid supplies, but let’s be honest, it’s ugly as sin. And then I had an epiphany. I like putting my feet up, the emergency kit likes having my feet on it, but it is a little hard and a little low to make that really comfortable. If only I could make it into an ottoman. ….But wait, I can…
So off I went, to the recesses of my brain, to plot and devise a crafty solution and here is what I did.
- 1/4″ plywood big enough to match the widest and longest measurements of the case. (don’t get the best stuff you are going to cover it)
- A 3 foot length of 1″x3″
- 2 1/2 yds of home decor fabric (buy enough for your needs, this is what I calculated I would need. Don’t forget to include a 1/2″ seam allowance on your measurements)
- 3″ thick foam padding (this stuff is expensive!)
- Upholstery Adhesive (to glue the foam to the wood)
- Wood cutting tools
- A nail gun (or a hammer)
- Pre-wash your fabric. Before doing this you may want to sew/serge the raw cut edges of the fabric so it doesn’t shed a lot of thread in your washer.
- Measure your case and determine how big you want the top of your ottoman to be. In my example, since my case is so big I wanted the top to be big enough to cover any protruding parts (there are tie down hooks at each end) so that I would bang up my legs on a pointy bit if I ran into it.
- Transfer those measurements to your plywood and cut it out. I then tested the fit below by flipping the case over onto the board. You can really see those hooks I referred to earlier.
- At this point you have a decision to make. What to do with the corners. I didn’t want to cover the pointy bits on the case only to have pointy corners on the ottoman, so I opted to round off the corners. I tried to draw the corners while the case was on top of the board, but I’m not that skilled so the kitchen provided me with an alternate solution.
- With the top cut to size it is time to make the cleats to hold it in place on top of the ottoman. My case has a two level top (see first picture), so I cut my cleats at a 20 degree angle to kind of match the angle of the rise and glued and nailed them into place with a brad nailer. In hindsight, there probably are other solutions to keeping the wood in one place, like that rubber stuff you put in kitchen drawers or under rugs. But I knew that I would be accessing the case fairly frequently so I didn’t want the hassle of repositioning something like that every time.
- Now that the wood work was done I decided to use the top as the template for cutting out the top piece of fabric for the ottoman. Remember, if you remember nothing else, to add an inch for seam allowances. I also used the same bowl that I used for the wood, to curve the corners of the fabric.
- Now it is time to glue the foam onto the board. I would recommend doing this outside on a calm day, the spray glue has the potential to get everywhere. Once the glue was basically set I then used a bread knife to trim down the foam. While the end result does not appeal to my obsessive need for clean lines… it was going to be covered so I made my peace with it.
And then I stopped taking pictures because I was having fun sewing. My Bad! Basically I cut out a top (pictured above), a border that was about the width of the foam core, some piping of the same fabric for just below that and then the skirt. Below is the finished product.