Friday, December 24, 2010


I'm on holiday. Somewhere in my luggage my little camera lurks. We've been staying in Silverstream in the Hutt Valley near Wellington for the past few days. Now we are in Ngatimoti, which is up the Motueka Valley near Nelson. I'm wondering how the garden is doing without me, and I miss our lovely house, but it is being looked after. I'm sure the birds are keeping a close eye on my raspberries, and the daikons are becoming enormous.

This morning Miss Dog and I did our first training mission for a triathlon in 2012. As you know, I'm not one for sticking to things, so if I actually do a triathlon it will be a MIRACLE. We did trot along with the best of intentions, met a lovely horse, trespassed (well one of us did, the other was yelling frantically), and generally had a good time. I was wearing my new sneakers. They are comfy, although probably wouldn't win any prizes for adding to my sporting prowess.

Today we are going into Motueka to help Mum and Nanny finish their Christmas shopping and to meet the Golden Bay relatives for afternoon tea. Johnny let fly the horrifying revelation that he doesn't like berry picking at the berry farm. I love it. So I let some other family members go instead. Hopefully I'll get to go on the berry picking expedition before New Year.

Looks like Mum and Nanny are almost ready to go. I'll hunt for the camera and take some photos for next time. XXX

ps. Merry Christmas- Happy Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thank you treats

It has been a very busy week with a class of very tired and niggly students (and sorry to say, one grouchy teacher assistant). Fortunately there have been some treats coming my way to make me very happy indeed. It isn't even the last day and I've got some gorgeous thank you presents already.

Two wonderful soaps (my reindeer patchwork cushion snuck into the photo because I love it so much).
Roses. You know how much I love roses.
I also got a very special thank you from one of my very precious former students, who is now 21 and is leaving school. He is severely intellectually disabled and he and I have been very close for a long time. I'm sure we will get together again in the future. He (and his mum) gave me this very large, deliciously fragrant candle.
Plus this amazing bouquet of flowers. More roses, Christmas lilies (one of my favourite flowers) and tucked here and there - chocolate!!!!

The photo does not do the flowers justice, but I couldn't drum up the energy to muck around with the camera. Only one and a half days to go until the holidays!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So proud

My four feathered babies have left home. On Monday morning when I popped out to check on them there were only three, all standing eagerly in their nest. By the time I got home from school they had all flown away. How strange to think of them spending their childhoods cowering together in their nest, never leaving to explore the branches in their immediate vicinity. Then suddenly they are so big they barely fit together, their bodies fully feathered, so they all leave home, never to return. I've been left with a rather stretched and soiled nest, perched in the little maple tree. I do miss them because they were so fascinating. I never imagined tiny creatures could grow and change so fast. I hope they return to pull out my seedlings, slaughter the local insect population and to rampage through the raspberries. Hopefully next year I'll have the pleasure of another nest to observe and worry over.

As you can see, the birds have left a few raspberries for us to enjoy. The wooden compost bin has raspberry canes behind it, and I had to climb on top of the compost to hunt for the fruit. My foot nearly disappeared into something hideous, and when I climbed down I caught my foot in the bird netting and nearly had an embarrassing spill. It was worth it because the fruit is perfect. We had them for pudding.
I was also impressed with my first radish crop of the year. I've had great success with the daikon radishes. These are just a standard mixed radish pack. The red ones were eaten first because they grew super-fast. I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I pulled out this purple one. It was slightly woody in the centre and totally edible. Not all nasty and hot like they usually become as they grow bigger.

I had the last judging session at the Canterbury Eventing Twilight Series on Wednesday night. I can now judge show jumping. I was really sad to see the end of the competition because I enjoyed every minute of it. I saw some amazing horses and a wide array of riders, some fantastic, and others not so good. I hope to be invited back in February for the next Twilight Series.

Heather and Francis are coming tomorrow, for afternoon tea and a tour of the garden. I'm on a go-slow for some reason. Often happens after a creative period and is rather frustrating. Tomorrow I'll try to ignore the go-slow and see what I can do. I think I'm bogged in panic over the many Christmas presents I have to purchase. Family members- your Christmas lists please!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Merry Christmas

Take a look at what I got for Christmas! My babies are positively huge! Actually they belong to the very hard working Mr and Mrs Blackbird (Johnny said he saw a pair of thrushes feeding them, but unless they are an interspecies family, he got it wrong). There were four eggs and, to this point, there are four impressively sized baby birds. They are the strong, silent type, and hunker down peering back at me with their beady little eyes when I take a peek into their nest. I think they've got used to it now because they never look panicked when I'm nearby, and their parents have given up on the raucous alarm cries too. My raspberry patch is taking a hammering to feed the greedy hoard before the fruit is even ripe. I threw some bird netting over the top, but I'm sure that won't give them any trouble whatsoever.
Johnny scrambled up into the attic space to hunt out my Christmas tree. I had lots of fun putting it up while Johnny and The Crafty Neighbour reclined on the couches making "helpful" suggestions about where I needed to fill gaps. My tree is multi-coloured, mainly because I'm not keen on spending heaps to purchase the latest fashion in decorations each year. Plus I meant to buy clear fairy lights, but accidentally got colourful ones. They are very pretty. I especially love bird decorations, and buy them when I see particularly lovely ones.
I got two small strips of interesting Christmas fabric from the remnant bin at Cottonfields a couple of months ago. I was trying to decide what to make when I was suddenly inspired to make a Christmas cushion for the living room to go one of the new chairs. The colours in the lounge are traditional red Christmas colours, but red doesn't go with the softer colours in the living room, and this matches perfectly. I like the little reindeer.
I had three strips leftover, and I've been wanting to make tiny bunting flags for ages so got out the pinking shears and a long strip of ribbon. The bunting is over two metres long, and I have no idea where to hang it as I don't want to stick it to the wall and mark the paint. The bunting is so sweet, and I would definitely make it again, even though it was rather fiddly.

Today I planted carrot, pea and pak choy seeds, plus clipped the box hedging and did some serious tidying up in the garden. The poppies are getting scruffy and leggy, so I decided to pull out the worst offenders and cleaned up the dried out bulb foliage. As I was scruffling around in some daffodil leaves a mouse popped out and raced across the lawn, right between Miss Dog's legs and into the undergrowth. She didn't even notice. I hope the dear wee creature doesn't enter the "man vs mouse" war zone, that is our house. It wouldn't stand a chance against Johnny's arsenal of lethal poison pellets and traps.

We've got the end of year production tomorrow and Tuesday. I'm going to need all of the patience, calmness and organisational skills I can summon up. Grim. I hope the children have fun and don't get too bored, stressed, hot or otherwise bothered, or there will be trouble. I'm very excited about the upcoming holidays as I'm in a highly creative phase at the moment. I've got one more show jumping judging session. I did about half of the judging last week. It was great fun. I hope to do some horsey stuff in the holidays too.

Have a great week. Eat a candy cane, purchase or make a new decoration for the Christmas tree, and don't forget your sunblock (read "thermal underwear" if in the Northern Hemisphere). XXX

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reports are finished

Only three weeks of school to go! Sorry for the two week gap between news reports- all of the school work has been making me computer-shy and rather jaded about typing. Arrangements for Christmas are being made and next weekend I intend to begin celebrating Christmas in our house with the erection of the Christmas tree. I would love a real tree, but as it is summer and I like my Christmas to last right through December and some of January as well, pine needles everywhere and a very crispy looking skeleton of a tree would be the result before we even got to Christmas day.

On the summer front, it has been lovely and hot here. In other words I have felt boiled alive and was out gardening this evening until it was too dark to see because during the day I am extremely uncomfortable in the heat of the sun. I planted a few seeds and plants and did some watering. Last night I made some delicious lamb kebabs with a marinade of yoghurt (yuck says Mum) and Moroccan spices. We cooked them on the bbq. We had them with puy lentils- yes Johnny ate lentils and like them!!!!! They are nutty and tasty. Plus a salad from the garden, of course. I was very proud of this romanesco broccoli that appeared on a plant leftover from the winter crop. Wow!
This is the raised bed with some of my lettuce plantation. The slugs are appearing in such numbers I've been wondering if anyone has considered sauteeing them with butter and garlic. I can't use conventional slug bait with a Labrador around. I've got velvety black pansies, and tall, whippy garlic plants, plus some daikon, beetroot and garlic chives in as well as the lettuces.
This is a daikon or Japanese radish. The root is about a foot long. Delicious too - crunchy with just a little heat. They grow like mad - imagine how little radishes grow and multiply the size of the plant by about a thousand. Very rewarding and good to fill me up at lunchtime in my salads.

Now if anyone can explain the appearance of these beauties I'd love to hear it. In 2008 I put in a punnet of soldier poppies. Then when I got the box plants off Mrs CT they were joined by some orange toned shirley poppies. Just a few. This year I've got poppies everywhere- orange, red, pink, burgundy, white and these double ones. I didn't plant them. I'm not complaining at all, they are stunning, but I am very surprised at the development of the poppy empire in my garden. They are like a flu virus, spreading like wildfire and bullying everyone in their path. I have to sometimes come in and show them who is boss, which secretly breaks my heart, but I try to look stern and decisive in case any more get ideas above their station. These ones I am welcoming with great joy. The pink one is actually the same size as the white one, but the camera has to work hard at night and does weird things.
Remember Mrs Bird and her one egg. Well now we've got a family of four rapidly growing, charming, but rather challenged in the beauty department, baby thrushes. I thought they were blackbirds, but Johnny said he spotted Mr Bird working damn hard along with his wife, feeding the gaping maws of his offspring with worms. You can see their beaks poised ready to receive another helping of my hardworking garden helpers. Fortunately their eyes were shut when the flash went off. Mr and Mrs Bird spent considerable time making heartwrenching alarm cries today as I tried to get on with my outside activities. They are nervy creatures who make me feel guilty even hanging up the washing.

I really hope the dear wee family make it to maturity and are the next generation to give the slugs a good hiding.

On my Christmas list this year (first draft)
2 blueberry bushes (they do better with a mate)
Other fruiting plants.
English rose bushes (ones I haven't got, obviously)
Books (another list to come)
Jewellery- the more carats the better
A new car with air conditioning.
Pretty scarves, handbags, accessories.
Vintage china- especially primula or chintz designs.
A very very pretty china teapot (vintage of course)
Big flowered clematis plants
Interesting perennials.
Bedtime. Have a great week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Canterbury Anniversary Holiday

Show weekend. That's what we call this wonderful three day weekend. And true to form, it is swelteringly hot. Actually only 26 degrees Celsius, but I wilt in the heat like a poor flower broken off in the wind. I can feel a little breeze coming in to my workroom, so I will hopefully be able to get out and do some more gardening later this afternoon. I am on a weeding rampage, but the heat makes me feel woozy every time I stand up, and I'm scared of getting sunburned. I did have a quick zip around the garden with the camera. My bare feet were scorched on the hot driveway. I would be utterly hopeless living in a truly hot place.

What have I been up to? This last week I took a small group to the Canterbury A.and P. Show, which was fun. There were some moments of behavioural difficulty to keep on top of, but generally we had a fairly stress-free time. There were lots of lovely animals to see, and as we went on Wednesday, it wasn't as unpleasantly crowded as it can get. I think the most sad thing about the show is that it is huge, with lots of farmy displays and outdoor lifestyle promotions, but it lacks the wonderful old-fashioned elements like the supersized vegetable competitions, and the handcrafts. Your best bet for nutrition is a pottle of chips or a battered sausage on a stick (called a hotdog, but not like American hotdogs). They are actually a saveloy and have a gaudy red colouring which stains the interior of the batter like some kind of toxic waste. I must say, I'm very fond of candyfloss, like pretty pastel coloured clouds that magically darken in colour when you squash them. I didn't buy any though, as I had to stay on top of my game focusing on my little crowd of teenagers. If I was distracted by a giant clump of sugar I might have lost one of them.

Speaking of delicious, sweet things, I thought I'd show you some of the roses I have out in the garden. Most of them are English Roses. I love them because they are old fashioned, but generally repeat flowering and well behaved enough for a smaller garden. I'm having a mental block on the names of some of them.

Pat Austin- such a remarkable colour. I'm hoping for a better performance from her this year. She was short, but spindly and top heavy.
New last year from the South Pacific Roses sale. I'm drawing a blank on the name, but it is very pretty and quite petite.
Rosy Cushion. My only single rose.
Mary Rose. Such a long-flowering reliable rose.
Prospero possibly? Heat makes my brain melt. Deliciously fragrant.
Mystery yellow rose from the old house- possibly Teasing Georgia.
Golden Celebration. Huge, lavish, golden globes.
Leander- I'm trying to make her climb, but she is resisting.
Crown Princess Margeurite - a complete disaster in my old garden, but when brought to the new garden hasn't looked back. She is much richer in colour than she looks here, and has the wee green bit in the middle. Lovely.
Wild Eve- what an amazing rose this is! She has a low, spreading form that is quite easy to control and this year her flowers are enormous. Bigger even than Golden Celebration. Highly recommended.
Either Cornelia or Felicia- I can't remember without checking my rose book. Very pretty and smothered in blooms.
Penelope. A cutting from Mum's garden long ago, and growing madly here.
One of my newest acquisitions - Gertrude Jekyll. She is utterly divine. I planted her on Monty's grave and she is meeting all of my expectations. I'm so pleased. She will climb up the dark blue/grey fence and look fabulous.

On the garden front, as if you weren't bored enough already, I am harvesting lettuce leaves daily. My spring onions are adding flavour to salads, and today I harvested my first daikon, or Japanese radish. It was a decent size and crisp. I want to harvest them young so they don't go woody. They probably wouldn't be to everyone's taste. Slightly hot and pungent with a fairly mild flavour for a radish- not like a turnip, but juicy and crisp like a raw one. Super quick and easy to grow too.

I've got projects to get on with, and reading to do. Also my cello to play. I hope you are all having a good day. I'm having an exceedingly happy one.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Around the garden

Today I did so much! The weather was lovely and after we had brunch with friends at the Thyme Cafe I changed into my gardening gear and started working in the Vegetable Empire. I was putting the finishing touches on the baby bear patch (small orange pumpkins-hopefully) when I spotted this lovely lady in the maple by Johnny's office window. I was rather distressed when she flew away.
She left this behind.
I tried to sneak around but there was washing to hang out, the tomato patch to level and tools to put away. I kept checking but she was nowhere to be seen. I hope she comes back.

Johnny was very busy laying some lovely carpet rolls of grass where the last of dirt mountain lurked. We are both delighted, and I'm sure Miss Dog will be too, when she has access again. There is a little paddock in the corner. My lovely raised beds are planted and are busy growing things.
My little seed raising house only has basil in it at the moment. Everything else has moved out.
These are some of my gorgeous lettuces. I can highly recommend the mixed lettuce selection in the Kings Seeds catalogue. My current favourite is a wonderful speckled lettuce.
I've got my eye on this artichoke too. I've never eaten a fresh one. It feels like I will be murdering it rather than harvesting it.
My beautiful roses are coming out like old, very good friends, returning after a long holiday.

Apart from the glorious gardening, I have sewed and sewed a Christmas present. Can't show you right now, for obvious reasons. I've also revisited another lot of old friends, the Cullens, in the four Twilight books over the past week. I couldn't help myself. I'm already looking forward to reading them again. I need to discover another fabulous series of books to collect and read over and over. I'm not sorry to say, they are usually children's books - not for wee children. I've loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books, the Harry Potter books, and others.

Well, off to bed now, I think. Another long day ahead tomorrow. I'd better give my growly voice a good rest before it has another workout tomorrow.

Ps. I'm playing Poulenc's Serenade for cello and piano, and Faure's Pavane currently. Take a look on You Tube - you won't find me (ever) but the pieces are so lovely.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the Radar

Gosh we've had a busy weekend. It all started with a fantastic evening out to a fundraising show featuring one of my favourite NZ television personalities, Te Radar. His show (which lasted over 2 hours) was a hilarious tour through some of the unfortunate and remarkable characters long forgotten in New Zealand history. Entitled "Eating the Dog," the show was absolutely brilliant. And even better, I got to meet and chat to Te Radar myself. One of the unfortunate gentlemen selected by Te Radar did, in fact, eat a dog. I, myself may have also been persuaded to eat a dog if I had nothing but fern roots, which caused grievous constipation. I also never knew that an intrepid Australian decided to build a submarine, called the Platypus, to obtain gold in Otago. Unfortunately it was a complete failure, and nearly killed the inventor, plus the seven idiots who were on the test run. If I was to build a submarine, I would ensure there was a way to open the door from the inside.

Te Radar and dog. Just a companion. Not a snack.

After that brilliant start, the weekend has been full of social activities and plenty of gardening. In fact you could sandpaper a piece of furniture with the incredibly rough palms of my hands. We have been sorting the last of dirt mountain into beds three and four of the raised potager beds. I've been the official stone and weed picker outerer. I planted peas, coriander, peppers and tomatoes today. Fingers crossed for clement weather this week while my babies get settled. Johnny did an amazing job digging and wheelbarrowing the dirt around. Plus he put a board along to mark the edge of my big corner woodland garden.

I'm hoping for a good week at school. My foot is mostly better. I stayed off it for two days and that was the best thing to do. Right, I've got school work to do. I wish it was sewing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I had a little accident yesterday. I was zipping out to chuck a dead ranuncula flower out in the compost before we had six friends around for a barbeque, when I rolled my ankle and fell over. At the time there was some severe groveling and ouching, a bit of amused sympathy from Johnny, but as the visitors were about to arrive I had to get up and carry on. Nothing much hurt while I was doing stuff. But by bedtime I couldn't put any weight on my foot and had to crawl to the toilet. It hurt so much the bedcovers made it ache. This morning I still couldn't walk on it, so I had to stay at home. It looks a bit fat but doesn't actually hurt until I try to stand on it. So much for dancing on the lawn, but at least I've had some time to dedicate to crafty projects (once my nose stopped bleeding, but that's another issue altogether - although possibly related to hitting the deck hard).

I decided to get onto finishing the border for the runner. I really wanted to do mitred corners. Auntie B. gave me a lesson last year, and after intense scrutiny of instructions in one of my books, I had a go. I must admit, there was some unpicking due to idiotic actions made by the injured party, but my mitres are all lying beautifully flat, and I'd be happy to have a go on my next quilt. The advantage of learning how is that you have to make four corners, so have plenty of practise.

The runner still needs a back, but I want red and don't have any.
Look at that lovely corner. I'm so proud.
Here is the runner sitting where it will eventually live. I still haven't chosen paint for this piece of furniture.

This was inspired by Jane Brocket's Tulip Fields quilt. It uses mainly Kaffe Fassett fabrics, although the border fabric is not one of his. It has that lavish over-the-top floral feel about it though. I am very pleased indeed.

I'm not so sure about this foot. I couldn't get a doctor's appointment today (everyone is desperate for medical help after the long weekend apparently). The problem is that I am moving so slowly it would take ages to get from the office to my classroom, and should all Hell break loose, I can't get out of the way. What I need is some crutches, so I can both walk, and defend myself with them. I've got an appointment for tomorrow morning. I'll probably be a lot better by then. Not quite ready for a dance on the lawn, but maybe to sort of walk, rather than gingerly hobble, from one end of the house to the other.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Labour Day Holiday

I thought I had better get cracking and get onto the computer this morning, as I've got so much to do today and I'd hate to miss out on telling you about my visit to see the most gorgeous long legged baby. This is Fraser and his gentle mummy. He is nine days old in these photos, which were taken on Saturday. He is apparently an incredibly curious and brave foal. Most foals won't let you go anywhere near them, so what a privilege to be able to touch him, and to have him come up to snuffle us. He especially liked Johnny, so I called him the horse whisperer.
He is going to be dark like his mother, and probably taller, judging by the very long legs.
His mummy is called Zanny (or possibly Xanny??) and is so relaxed and happy to have a cuddle and scratch.
When we crouched down Fraser couldn't resist a close inspection. His nose is covered in long whiskers, which will disappear as he grows. He has little teeth on the bottom, and is trying to nibble on grass, but hasn't quite worked out how to reach down to it yet.
One day he might be a champion eventer. He will have the right person to train him. His owner rode in the Badminton Horse Trial several years ago.

On the home and garden front, the daffodils are almost finished, and the tulips are fading fast. The bearded iris are appearing. I've really got to go shopping for some new, beautiful ones. I don't mind these ones, but in a small garden you really want to have things you love. I have several big clumps of these thanks to a plastic bag left by the door. They are velvety and rich looking, and look good against the house.
Very exciting rose news. I spotted the first blooms today. Here is Mary Rose. She is always a reliable early girl.
And this is Kathryn Moreley (I think), who came with me from the old house, and is trying extra hard this year, after a dismal showing in 2009.
On a slightly curious note, I have a rampant crop of these toadstools. Sadly not edible mushrooms. They look rather Halloweenish among the flowers.
The pansies are continuing to give spring their full attention.
And the ranunculas are stunning. They are like swirling silk ball dresses.

I'm very stressed as I've got my appraisal at school, and since things can be pretty hideous in my classroom (I've got a big bruise to prove it), who knows how things will go. Oh well, if I get fired I can always garden and sew all day. Yay! Actually the main thing I don't do well is some of the paperwork, as I haven't got the energy after struggling to keep the class on the straight and narrow all day. I wish I could run away and sew myself a ball dress out of silken petals, then dance on the lawn in bare feet.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Today has been a bit of a frustrating day because I haven't got all of the things done I would have liked to. Never mind, there was lots to see in the garden.
There are brilliant splashes of colour in the front border.
The parrot tulips are rather a muddle of petals, like custard and raspberry jelly. Not sure what the black middles look like- flies in the pudding? You can see the bearded iris getting ready to open. Unfortunately they are a dark browny black. They arrived in a plastic bag on the doorstep. I love the colour of the strappy leaves against the house. I'm going to search out some prettier coloured ones and replace them, but these ones will probably go over in the cemetery. No, not in a coffin.
I love these delicate michelia flowers. They are so beautiful. This wee bush is still only a metre tall, and I'm looking forward to it putting some serious effort into growing.
This pasque flower was a fabulous find at the supermarket. It is fascinating to look at. I've always wanted one, but they tend to be expensive. I hope it does well for me.
Apart from the poets, these wee treasures are the last daffys out. They have a wonderful fragrance and seem to have multiplied merrily in their two springs with me.
Today The Crafty Neighbour lent me this contraption. It is for pressing flowers in the microwave. Interesting to experiment with, and since it only takes about a minute to dry out the flowers, it doesn't take long to get results.

Here are some of the pressed specimens. They keep their colour better than the ones I have done in the past in heavy books.
I've been working on the first of the handmade birthday presents, and was annoyed that I didn't get as much done as I wanted to today. I've got a busy week as I've got the usual school meetings, plus a bank appointment and I have to go to the doctor sometime as well. All sounds a bit tedious compared to enjoying the glorious colour around here.