by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Life, the Universe, and Everything”

The End of the Never-Ending Renovations

Posted 2 July 2012 in by Catriona

It occurs to me that having bored you all senseless with endless photos during the actual renovations, I then didn’t talk about it again once it was done.

But, surely, I thought to myself, surely they’re desperate to see how it all turned out? Of course you are.

In short, we went from this:

To this:

Something of a change, yes?

We also have bonus opening windows in the bathroom, which Nick was particularly excited about:

Then, because the house has had a hell of a time, we bought it some presents:

And then we lived happily ever after.

And by “we”, I mean me and the chesspiece-shaped lamp, of course.

The Never-Ending Renovations

Posted 20 May 2012 in by Catriona

We’re in the end stages, now, of the renovations that began in February. We must be. There really isn’t anything left to renovate at this stage. But the last step is the living room. And in a little six-room house like this, with no dining room or any other communal living area, the living room is pretty close to half the house.

So I took rec. leave from my cataloguing of Australian speculative-fiction film and television on Friday (because, lovely as all the tradesmen have been, I just have to have my house to myself again), and tackled the living room this weekend.

Of course, the problem was that the living room looked like this:

It was housing the spare room and the study, though not, I might add, the hallway, which had already been restocked. True, the spare room and study had been the first rooms done, but then they’d become home to the contents of the main bedroom, while it was painted.

It’s like an enormous game of Tetris.

And I always sucked at Tetris.

Under those circumstances, there’s no greater sign of victory than visible carpet. Especially carpet that hasn’t been visible for weeks.

Of course, visible carpet is a short-lived victory when you live with a dedicated hoarder:

I also became sharply aware of the fact that the phrase “dust sheet” is in no way metaphorical:

But slowly, very slowly, it all started to fall into place:

Of course, better is relative. But this is better. It’s the result of an entire day’s work and pushed my poor back well past its endurance levels (never very high), but it’s definitely better.

There were some small hiccups, like finding an entire box of classics after my classics shelf already looked like this:

But, eventually, I regained my living room:

Just in time to strip everything out of it, and shove it into the spare room.

By bedtime, my poor living room looked like this:

It hasn’t been so bare since we moved in here ten years ago. Naturally, it looks even worse now, because everything’s under dust sheets and the carpet’s lying in the front garden.

But this must be the finish line. There really can’t be anything left in this house that hasn’t already been renovated.

Work/Life/Home Imbalance

Posted 9 May 2012 in by Catriona

The Random Chaos of Renovations

Posted 7 May 2012 in by Catriona

This week, the hallway and main bedroom are slated for painting. This leads to a complex game of Tetris (or, perhaps, Jenga), since the contents of the spare room and the study are still clogging the living room, after last week’s painting. So, rather than move all that material back and then move the hallway and main bedroom ephemera into the living room, we’ve just shuffled.

So my living room is full of my study and my spare room.

My spare room is empty, bar the actual furniture, because we need to sleep in there from Wednesday.

And my study is full of the hallway and main bedroom (which would be less of a concern if the hallway didn’t house three enormous bookcases).

All is chaos and strange juxtapositions.

But don’t think that either the chaos or the fact that my lads lost the FA Cup final will stop me from live-blogging the Eurovision semi-finals. Watch this space! Well, not tonight, but soon.

Chaos in Action

Posted 28 March 2012 in by Catriona

If Nick and I suddenly disappear from our social networks (virtual or actual) or stop coming to work one day, this is why:

Send someone to dig us out, would you? You know, when you have a minute.

Wednesday, in Numerical List Form

Posted 21 March 2012 in by Catriona

Sleep had (insufficient).
Cups of coffee drunk (3).
Showers taken (1).
Strange men holding an enthusiastic conversation right outside my shower (2).
Outfits that accidentally look like tuxedos worn (1).
E-mails sent to students (1).
Thank-you e-mails sent to television production companies (2).
Exciting breakthroughs made in television research (2).
Exciting breakthroughs not made in television research due to a disappointing and illegal absence of authorial credits in Dutch DVDs of Australian children’s television programs (1).
E-mails sent to boss (4).
Lead-paint removal (ongoing).
Conversations held with my computer desktop image (several).
Spreadsheets updated (2).
Headaches endured (minimal).
E-mails received from my mother (1).
E-mails sent to my mother (1).
Misunderstandings had with my mother via e-mail (1).
Phone calls received from the builder telling me he is standing outside my front door and would like me to let him in (1).
Paint colour catalogues to look through (2).
Rooms in which the builder will allow me to have a colour feature wall (1).
Editing tasks completed for my father-in-law (1).
Lifetimes spent waiting for service in the post office (7).
Book I impulsively bought while waiting seven lifetimes in the post office (2).
Minutes it actually took to post the parcel (4).
Parcels posted (1).
Post-office employees who told me highly personal stories about their horrible mothers-in-law (1).
Tutorials held (2).
Number of tutorials in which I used The Never-ending Story as a metaphor for conscientious editing (1).
Number of students who told me that “Atreyu really loved his horse!” (4).
Number of us who admitted that we cried when the horse died (2).
Undergraduates who have done me unnecessary but thoughtful kindnesses today (2).
Bus trips taken (2).
Amount of wine I’m about to drink (all of it).

The Strange Process of Renovation

Posted 20 March 2012 in by Catriona

Our kindly landlord has decided to do a comprehensive renovation on the house. Of course, we’re still living here, which makes life a little surreal at times. And noisy. But mostly surreal.

It all began with us having to shower on our back verandah, but I’m not posting photographs of that. You’ll thank me. Trust me.

We’re showering on our back verandah because our bathroom is undergoing complex generic metamorphoses.

First, we had a Southern Gothic bathroom:

Now, we have a crime-scene bathroom:

The turquoise is quite fetching, though. Shame it’s going under the tiles, really.

But right now, I’m living in some kind of zombie/psychological-experiment horror flick, as they tent my house to remove the lead paint:

And you can’t even see the strange, white-suited astronauts moving across the windows …

(Of course, you realise this entire post is a lengthy excuse for not blogging more often, right? But with pictures!)

This Season's New Knitting Stitch

Posted 29 February 2012 in by Catriona

I’ve mentioned before that I dislike having idle hands, because it makes me restless. And as the year cools down a bit, I’m ratcheting up the knitting. It makes Nick a bit anxious, because he worries that it aggravates the odd upper-back injury I’ve given myself somehow, but it keeps me calm. Ultimately, anything that means less shouting is likely to get Nick’s vote.

But I’ve been between projects, while waiting on a second delivery of the special wool for the super-secret (not at all secret) birthday afghan project. So I experimented with a new pattern, one that creates a lovely lacy effect, almost like a honeycomb:

It’s not a difficult pattern, of course (I’m not up to difficult patterns), but it does look pretty, especially in a fluffy variegated wool (leftovers from my tiny baby niece’s fancy baby blanket):

Then I added tassels, because who doesn’t like tassels?

This is intended for a friend, but I like the effect so much that I’m thinking the next project (after the afghan) might be a loose, lacy, honeycomby jumper.

At the Avon Dam

Posted 4 February 2012 in by Catriona

After Christmas, my parents fancied a day trip out somewhere. I was still pretty shaky with the chest infection, so we settled on a slow (and slightly wheezy) walk along the dam wall at the Avon Dam.

We used to go to the Avon Dam all the time when we were little, for company picnics and casual weekend walks. But none of us had been for years. Nick had never been.

It was hot and bright and very, very Australian summer.

I took photos that I couldn’t judge, because the sun was glaring off the iPhone screen. We walked slowly (and slightly wheezingly) along the dam wall and then down a path under an overhanging rock face: my mother insisted we walk single file and with a reasonable space between us, so that at least one of us would survive if the rock face fell on us.

Then we walked slowly back to the car, in the relative shade of which Nick and I flipped through our photos to see if any of them were in focus.

Then I completely forgot to blog about it until just now.

The Not-Even-Slightly Celestial Toymaker

Posted 30 January 2012 in by Catriona

I don’t like having my hands idle.

It’s not that I have any illusions about them being the devil’s playthings (atheist, right here), but I just don’t like it. Nick and I are adherents of serial story-telling (read: we watch a fair bit of telly), and if I’m just sitting there with my hands in my lap, I become restless and bored, not matter how good the actual episode or program is.

Like the fact that they took the dagger out of Elijah! So now Elijah’s back!


So I make my own rugs (both braided rugs and clippy mats), which has the added advantages of both recycling fabrics that aren’t really wearable any more and keeping some of the old crafts in play. I taught myself Viking knitting, and then promptly never did it again, despite really liking the effect. I knit, though not well, and I cannot crochet. I make little felt Santa hats for Daleks.

And lately I’ve been making little felt dolls.

You see, Nick was exceptionally clever this Christmas, and showered me (bless him) with an array of really lovely, thoughtful presents, including a little book on making steampunk soft toys.

This book on making steampunk soft toys, to be exact.

And one quiet Sunday, I thought I’d have a go at making one of the simpler patterns—one that didn’t involve too much brass or leather or ageing fabrics with wax.

I only had felt to hand, but felt is cheap and fairly easy to work with (albeit a bit on the stiff side), and though I couldn’t actually make any of the steampunk accessories with the materials I had to hand, I did manage to hand-sew a couple of little Victorian ladies who worked out well enough to please me:

Of course, they haven’t any arms, but then they are Victorian ladies. (And at least they have mouths. That’s my main problem with Hello Kitty—what kind of role model for girls is a creature that doesn’t even have a mouth? All the best women are a bit lippy, in my opinion.)

And then I had a thought. The kind of brilliant thought that led to my making tiny little felt Santa hats for my Daleks.

I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “you might be able to make a reasonable facsimile of a Weeping Angel out of this pattern.”

So I did:

Of course, felt is the worst possible fabric to try and make flowing robes out of, so there’s that. But for an experimental pattern (where I had to ad-lib both wings and arms), he hasn’t worked out at all badly.

Of course, now I spend my working days being loomed over by a little felt psychopath and compulsively glancing at my bookshelves to make sure he hasn’t moved closer.

And I still haven’t worked out a way to attach the arms in a way that would let me cover the eyes. But for a first attempt, he’s a pretty satisfying Weeping Angel.

Now I just need to make another half a dozen before Christmas.

Oh, and make them all little Santa hats, of course.

A Christmas Timeline

Posted 1 January 2012 in by Catriona

Christmas Eve:

Christmas Day:

Visiting the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Casula Powerhouse:

Chest infection:

Decking the Halls ... Garishly

Posted 20 December 2011 in by Catriona

A fortnight ago, on both Twitter and Facebook, I went completely Christmas mad, insisting on updating everyone every five minutes about my seemingly futile attempts to find napkins, Christmas crackers, and place mats that matched the fabulous purple Indian tablecloth and lime-green beaded coasters that my mother-in-law had bought me for my birthday.

Because these were a gift and because the Christmas dinner was for that side of the family (Nick’s immediate family), I wanted to make the tablecloth and coasters the basis of the dinner table, which necessitated (in my mind, at least), a purple and green colour scheme that was not, perhaps, in keeping with a traditional Christmas table.

But seemingly, purple and lime green were not popular Christmas colours this year. I scoured dozens of shops looking for matching crackers and napkins, getting increasingly frustrated. I was also attempting to find beer glasses that would take an entire bottle of beer, which was even more frustrating.

I worry quite often about being an unsatisfactory daughter-in-law, and Christmas dinner (since it’s the only Christmas dinner that Nick’s entire family attends) tips me right over into the kind of domestic insanity that leads to me vacuuming the living-room floor with that little brush you use to do the upholstery.

Luckily, since the advent of social networking, there’s an outlet for such things. So any and all of you who also follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend suffered update after update about my increasingly downward spiral into full-blown Christmas psychosis.

In the end, we won at Christmas, which is the main thing. But it seems to me you might like to have some reward for your patience. And if looking at pictures of a garishly decorated Christmas table counts as a reward, today is your lucky day!

(You might notice that I ended up panicking about the owl-themed silver crackers with purple and lime-green accents that I’d eventually settled on, and bought an additional set of purple and green crackers at Woolworths that very morning, when I was meant to be buying fresh fruit, wine, and flowers. So everyone got two crackers, and I spent an hour the next day picking up bits of cardboard from my living-room carpet. On the upside, the Woolworths crackers had the best paper hats ever.)

Sadly, hosting eight people for dinner in a six-room cottage with no dining room necessitates shoving the furniture anywhere it’ll go, so you can put two tables together right in the middle of the living room. Luckily, tinsel tends to smooth over any unorthodox seating arrangements.

Just to make everything even more Christmassy, I also insisted—much to Nick’s initial annoyance—in buying additional baubles and garlands, and sticking them to all the bookcases.

After all, who says GI Joe, Space Marines, and Decepticons don’t also want to celebrate Christmas?

(Actually, maybe not the Space Marines. The God Emperor probably doesn’t like Christmas. Then again, I don’t know his life.)

Just in case I don’t update again before the full madness of actual Christmas, Merry Christmas, lovely readers! See you all for the Doctor Who Christmas special!

The (Pumpkin) Doctor

Posted 30 October 2011 in by Catriona

Now, we thought Heather’s Eric Northman pumpkin was fantabulous—and he was.

But she’s really excelled herself this year:

(I only wish we’d taken a more lowlight picture.)

Traditional Jack O’Lantern be damned: next year, I’m lobbying for all eleven regenerations.


A night-time picture of the Doctor pumpkin, courtesy of the fabulous Kirsty:

Baby Blankets

Posted 4 October 2011 in by Catriona

Now the baby blankets have gone to their new home, I can show them off on the blog a little. They’re hardly the greatest baby blankets ever made, but they were certainly fun.

Sensible baby blanket:

I grew to dislike the sensible baby blanket intensely as I was making it: those lozenges were frustrating to fit together, and I ended up having to strip one back and completely re-knit it, which it always annoying. But once I’d backed it with flannelette and added the velvet ribbon, I folded it up and put it away, so I could finish the second blanket. And when I unfolded it to shake it out and wrap it up, I found I actually liked it.

It’s always fun when that happens.

But it was the fancy baby blanket with which I was besotted:

As I say, I’m hardly the best knitter in the world, and this is the simplest of things: garter stitch (because, with that beautiful variegated wool, you hardly need a fancy stitch), increasing at the end of every second row, and with a deep (stockinette) frill.

But, gosh, it was pretty:

I thought it looked like coral, when it was folded up. Now I might need to knit one for myself, but not, perhaps, during a Brisbane summer.

The Epic Study Spring-Cleaning Ordeal of 2011: Finale

Posted 25 September 2011 in by Catriona

I’ve blogged so much about the unexpected horror that was the spring-cleaning of the study this year. I’ve devoted an entire blog post to the empty space pre-carpet cleaning. I’ve blogged about the slow re-build.

But finally—finally!—the study no longer looks like the squalid yet arty black-and-white photographs that I originally posted.

Now it looks like this:

It also has 100% more hot-pink plastic cuckoo clocks:

And 100% more swan-shaped TV lamps:

(In fact, combined with my insanely gorgeous Flash Gordon duck print, the study now has a whole unplanned bird-thing going on.)

As an added bonus, the spare room no longer looks like this, but like this:

Admittedly, I’ve barely started on the braided rug I intend to put in the study, but I hereby declare the spring-cleaning of the study officially over for another year.



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