Thursday, December 26, 2013


to all of you, my friends across the world.

May God bless you - as you've blessed me!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

St Mary's Cathedral Christmas Light Show

I mentioned this Christmas delight in passing in my post about Sydney's Christmas lights, but I wanted to see it for myself - and of course share it with you!

As I hurried through Sydney's Hyde Park towards St Mary's Cathedral last Wednesday evening it was clear that everyone had the same idea. We had come to see the amazing laser light display staged each evening from 8.30pm. 

Hundreds and hundreds of pedestrians thronged to the huge plaza of Cook and Phillip Square, and minibuses from suburban Catholic parishes and neighbourhood organisations lined up along the street to let excited passengers alight.

For the two weeks leading up to Christmas the 75 metre high facade of St Mary's has become a huge canvas on which to project stained glass-like images and nightly hundreds of spectators gaze in wonder, mobile phones held aloft to capture the photos as the 14 minute show plays over and over until midnight.

We watch as Mary and Joseph's animated journey to Bethlehem takes them through green, grassy areas, as well as the barren Judean desert.

We see the houses and buildings of old Bethlehem as they reach the outskirts of the town and seek a bed for the night.

And we see Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus projected on the soaring facade.

You can get a good idea of the scale of the animations by looking at the crowds in the bottom of this picture of the shepherds in the field.

The wise men are featured too, making their journey from far away. [Unfortunately this one's a little blurred].

The Christmas story is followed by a spectacular series of paintings of the Madonna and Child through the ages. It was quite breathtaking to see them so large.

The next scene is a child's view of Christmas, with a nursery and toys.

A Christmas tree is gradually decked out with candlelight and a "Merry Christmas" ribbon.

In this final amazing effect it's almost impossible to tell which is the real architecture of St Mary's and which is part of the pink and blue fantasy!

It's showing nightly from 8.30pm, but only until Christmas Day, so you'll have to hurry. It's worth a trip to the city!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Kiss for Harry

For reasons which will become obvious this post has taken me a very long time to write. It isn't all about the quilt, and it isn't all pretty, but for the sake of honesty with you, my readers, I feel bound to share it. 

After a year of sorting, tossing, culling and downsizing I finally moved into my new home in early August. Grandbaby #3 was due in just eight weeks and I still hadn't made the quilt (gulp!).

It was time to employ the KISS principle - Keep It Simple, Silly.

Simple doesn't have to mean boring, and with this in mind I decided on a cheery checkerboard pattern where the feature fabrics would have centre stage.

Six inch squares of clear, bright, saturated colours in fun patterns would alternate with squares of pure white homespun.  

The first step was to lay out all the squares, to make sure I had the right balance of colours and tones. Looks OK, doesn't it?

Hmmm, maybe not. Can you spot the problem?

Here's a tip. Take a photo of your fabrics at this stage, then edit your digital photo into black and white.

Once I did this it was screamingly obvious that the Kaffe pencils and the Winnie the Pooh square in the middle were the darkest in the whole quilt, and much too close together.

A quick switcheroo resulted in a more balanced arrangement.

This was confirmed for me when I created a black and white version of the second digital photo I took.

Of course this isn't the only way to do this test. Here are some more -

    1. Purchase a Ruby Beholder, a red filter for viewing your fabrics.
    2. Save money and use red cellophane for an improvised viewer.
    3. Use a door peep hole lens.
    4. Simply view your quilt through the LCD screen at the back of your digital camera.
    5. {The simplest method of all} Screw up your eyes and squint as you look at your layout.

I wanted the machine quilting to be as uncomplicated as the rest of the quilt, so straight lines using a walking foot seemed the line of least resistance. Personally I've never been a great fan of stitching in the ditch, mostly because I can never seem to control my machine needle's wandering, and the slightest deviation from that seam is glaringly obvious.

So I set the guide arm on my walking foot so I could stitch about an inch each side of the seams (sorry, no action photos taken).

For some time I've been wanting to try Linda's method of applying quilt bindings, so I decided now was the time.

I confess I didn't find it at all easy, even though her photos and instructions are excellent. The imperfect results are entirely due to user error!

This is my neatest corner, the only one I dare share. My report card would read 'room for improvement' ;-)

To hold the folded bindings in place I used my Clover Wonder Clips with their little teeth that hang on tight, without sliding off (like the hair slides I used to use) or wriggling lose and pricking me (like the pins I know some folk use).

At the time I had no idea if the quilt's recipient would be a little girl or boy, so I chose that aqua starry backing to appeal to either. 

And so it was finished! 

Remember this post (scroll down to the end) I wrote back in September about the delicious sense of anticipation I was feeling?

Just a couple of weeks later Sarah arrived from the USA and we were all so excited at being together to welcome a new little person into our family a year (to the month) after the heartbreak of losing Boak.

This bub felt to me like a beautiful gift from God, a confirmation that life would go on in new and exciting ways.

But just hours after Lachy took this photo the unthinkable happened.

As he began his journey into the world our precious Harry's little heart stopped beating and we were once again plunged into the all too familiar pain of paralysing, confusing, devastating, unbelievable grief.

Last year, while there was the agony of losing a husband (or father), we had celebrated a life lived to the fullest, a life of achievements, if cut far too short, and I'd found a measure of comfort in my special memories.

This time it was starkly, cruelly different for me, and indeed for all of us, for while we held our tiny Harry tight for a short time, and tried to create enough memories to last our lifetime, we grieved for a little boy we would never know. So much potential never realised.

As his heartbroken parents expressed it so succinctly, he would never grow old.

And this was far, far harder.

Of course I've asked "Why, God?" many times. But I don't expect an answer this side of heaven.

I only know that he continues to gently walk with me every day and constantly reminds me of the bigger picture. He's with me in the pain, holding me close as I held Harry, and reminding me in so many little ways that while there will always be pain in this world there's also so much joy and beauty and love.

Sometimes I embrace this thought warmly and easily, but there are days when I scramble to cling on by my very fingertips.

A Kiss for Harry will always remind me of our little man, and I like to imagine God who created him, gently cradling him in his arms and covering him with kisses, just as we did.

Christmas in the City

Perhaps only a quilter would see them like this, but I'm loving the Sydney City Council's banners this year with their bright kaleidoscopic stars resembling paper-piecing.

These stars take 3D form on the modern, metallic Christmas Tree in Taylor Square, busy hub of the hip suburb of Darlinghurst, where they glow like starry barnacles.

By contrast the Martin Place Christmas tree is green and looks rather more traditional. Large 3D stars dangle from its branches, and an illuminated ribbon swirls spectacularly around the tree from top to bottom bearing greetings sent from smartphones.

David Jones, our high-end department store, reuses its trees each year, and I say why not? I could never tire of these hot pink, magenta and silver baubles :-)

What would Christmas be without a nutcracker? This very proper fellow guards the ground floor escalator in David Jones.

David Jones' Christmas windows are an institution in Sydney, and no excursion to the city at Christmas would be complete without a visit. This year DJs is celebrating 150 years of trading, and some of the windows feature miniature scenes from the store itself, including the famous David Jones Christmas Choir.

A vision in blue and silver, this Christmas tree at St Vincents Private Hospital in Darlinghurst is one of the prettiest this year.

Being a Catholic hospital they also have an almost life-sized nativity scene, a beautiful reminder of the Reason for the Season.

The Town Hall has become the "screen" for vivid projections, and where I was standing I was part of a bank of enthusiastic amateur photographers and tourists all attempting to capture that perfect shot of this wonderful light show.

St Mary's (Catholic) Cathedral, beside Hyde Park, has its own spectacular lightshow projected on the facade but I haven't yet had the chance to see it in person and photograph it. 

I can, however, show you the magically lit interior of St Andrew's (Anglican) Cathedral next to the Town Hall.

Hundreds of fairy lights accentuate the soaring sandstone pillars and arches so that the Cathedral looks almost Medieval.

The biggest surprise of all, though, was the installation of three giant Christmas trees at the front of the church. Massed with constantly twinkling fairy lights, they are simply enchanting and give the Cathedral's neo-Gothic interior an other-worldly look.

My photo isn't the clearest, but I hope you can see what I mean, and appreciate why, for me, it was the highlight of my trip to the city to see the Christmas lights.