Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back to school tomorrow

Today was the last day of the holidays, and I made the most of it. We had some serious work to do in the greenhouse, as my tomatoes had taken over. Johnny built a frame so that I could tie them up more securely, and I was pleased to be able to winch them up off each other. I've got cucumbers and chilies in there as well, so needed to re-establish my authority to give them a chance. We've been harvesting tomatoes for almost a month now. My outdoor ones have a while to go before they ripen. Unfortunately there were quite a few lost fruit in the tie-up process, but I'll do something with those next Sunday, hopefully. Green tomato pickle? I planted some spring onions, rainbow chard, spinach, carrot and basil seeds today, in the raised beds. Plus I re-organised some lettuce seedlings so that they have more room to grow into spectacular salad greens.

I've decided to make the most of the slow cooker by making up big batches of freezable concoctions for meals during the week. Today I made chili con carne. It will make good nachos, cottage pie, canneloni filling, lasagne layers, spicy bolognaise or a topping for mashed spuds, rice or pasta. I'm feeling like a domestic goddess with that effort!

Actually, I think this is my favourite time of year. Autumn is approaching, which I love. The beautiful days and cooler nights suit me. Plus the harvest season is exciting. Corn, new season's apples, stonefruit, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, beans, carrots, greens- I could go on and on. I love seeking nut and fruit trees on the side of the road. I've got an apple tree earmarked for a visit by bike shortly to see how things are progressing. I can use my new apple peeling/coring/slicing machine (thanks Pyro-Jim).

I'm determined not to run out of steam enjoying life during term time this year. I've got to work on my fitness most days, so I think I'll try to sneak in some digging after school, or a walk or bike ride. I'll be horse riding each weekend. Johnny has been working on my bike, but I might get a new one if my old one continues to hurt my wrists. He is having a very happy time doing bike things.

On my schedule this week:
Monday: Teacher Only Day- professional development about something. I'll find out when I get there. Criminal Minds at 8.30pm.
Tuesday: Teacher Only Day- Jill Connell - child development expert - professional development.
Wednesday: Staff Only Day- Marae Visit and meetings. 5.30pm Twilight Eventing at National Equestrian Centre (showjumping judging).
Thursday: Students arrive at school for first day. Riding lesson 4.30pm. Stormchasers at 9.30pm.
Friday: Teaching. Probably a bit tired by now.
Saturday: Showing and Dressage day at Scarlett Oak (me and Bay Sam). Feeding Viv and Em's horses at 5.30pm.
Sunday: Gardening and cooking etc etc. Yay!
Monday: Waitangi Day holiday Yay!

On a sad note- dear Katie Dog, Mr and Mrs CT's German Shepherd, had to be put down this morning. It was time, but still a sad time for everyone who loved her. She was a breeding lady-dog until she was about 7, and Mr and Mrs CT adopted her and gave her a lovely life. Goodbye darling Katie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Busy weekend

The last four days have been really busy. I've enjoyed myself hugely, mainly because of the horsey activities. Last Thursday was my fun riding lesson. On Friday I went out to Viv and Emily's place for a horse day. I did everything from holding the scanner when Zanny was having her pregnancy scan (things are looking good at this stage, finger's crossed), to watching lessons, preparing horses for competition and cleaning tack. Four horses were getting ready for the ESNZ showjumping competition in Ashburton on Saturday. I went down with Emily in the horse truck, which was a very comfortable ride. I did my usual grooming job, and got to watch my horse friends compete. Evie, Chippie, William and Lewis did a wonderful job and I got to bring some ribbons home as Emily has no interest in them (she has won so many they are just a nuisance to her). She got more today, but I decided that I would just do one day, as Ashburton isn't close to home. I couldn't help being sad that I wasn't there to see William compete in the Grand Prix round, which he got fourth in, against a select group of amazing jumpers. It did rain all day down there though.

Today John went out and played golf with some of our man friends. I went with the ladies and had brunch at the Tai Tapu Store. The food was gorgeous and they had interesting gift items too. Surprisingly I was ready for a good feed at tea time and headed out to the garden. These tomatoes are from the greenhouse, and I picked some beans, a lovely onion and a wee garlic bulb from the collection drying on the deck. 
Unfortunately there was a casualty. I chopped my poor finger with a very sharp knife and spent the next hour with a flannel wrapped around it. The cut is one of those tiny ones that bleed like mad and restart with a bump. How annoying! Never mind, homegrown veges are the best.

This week I have to get myself sorted for school.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Whoooo hoooo

Today I met my riding goal of the year- to canter confidently, steer and go in different directions. I had a lesson on Bay Sam, and despite the awful wind, he was super good and co-operated beautifully with me when we practised our dressage test for the upcoming Scarlett Oak Dressage and Showing Day. We have a long way to go, but it was so exciting to canter 20 metre circles then down the side of the arena, trot, change the rein then canter along the side, around another circle - wheee! Great fun! Next lesson next week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Isabella de la Tour

Meet Bella. Today I was supposed to ride Grey Sam, as Bay Sam had already had a busy day. I got Sam all ready, mounted up, but as soon as we headed off at trot it became apparent that he was lame. When I groomed him he had a stick jammed in one of his hooves. It may have left a sore spot that hurt when the sandy surface of the arena pressed on it. So I had to take him back to his pen and untack him. Not long after he was seen cantering around his paddock like he didn't have a care in the world. That's horses for you. So I rode Bella for the first time today. She is quite young, has a few tricks up her sleeve,  but was a delight to ride. I did lots of cantering, which was a bit tricky because as soon as I asked her to canter she pressed her ears back hard and did a racing trot. That is Grey Sam's trick too, so I had no problem riding through that little issue. 

NOT the best photo of Bella, who is a very pretty lady. I had just given her a carrot, which she struggled with as she had to keep her bridle on because there was a beginner coming for a wee introductory ride. I've got her reins through the throatlash, and I took off her flash strap so that she could eat, and wrapped it around the reins so that it wouldn't get lost. Seems mean, but the flash goes from the noseband around and in front of the bit, then under her chin, and stops her from opening her mouth wide. I take it off if a horse is just chilling out, but they can get lost easily. 

 This is a bit prettier, but she wouldn't smile (too much carrot in her teeth!).
Bella is a bit of  minx on the ground, and I had to get my growly voice out. Once we had that power struggle sorted, and a brief challenge once I got on, we had a brilliant time, and she was a very good girl. So now I've got another horse buddy. Celine is looking into getting another appaloosa which is currently for sale. She sounds lovely too, and is another spotty coated creature. I'm excited!

I had a wee chance to play with my printer and hope to do some more soon. I also went into school for the first time this year, and am remarkably relaxed about the whole affair. Time to start some serious planning.

PS. I was so disappointed that I had to get off Sam today because I felt really confident on him for the first time since my fall. Luckily Bella made up for it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In the Red Zone

I must confess, these aren't my photos. In fact I wasn't even there. Johnny and his mum got a tour of the Red Zone in the centre of Christchurch today. I stayed at home because only two people could go. Never mind, I harvested the garlic, finished my book and spent time with Jacqui. 

It is tricky to get into the central city. You have to be on an arranged tour and basically sign your life away to get access. The army are still supervising. The Cathedral is not the splendid building it once was. 
 The spire is gone.
 The beautiful rose window is gone.
 Hundreds of buildings have been demolished, with hundreds more to go.
 This is the view down Manchester Street.
 John and his mum found it very interesting.

More exciting for me- I got a printer today! I've wanted one for a while, and today Johnny and I got this one. I can print, scan and copy on this, and it does a lovely job of photos. I did need Johnny to set it up, but I did some of it myself. Not sure how people manage when they don't have a technical whiz to help them.

Needless to say, I'm extremely pleased to be able to print out my writing and photos at long last. My new printer is installed on my enlarged work table in my workroom. I hope to get some scrapbooking done tomorrow. Plus I've been working on your quilt, Mum. I'm also going into school tomorrow morning, and I have a riding lesson in the afternoon. I hope it will be a great day!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Introducing My Lovely Sam

As promised, here is a photo of Bay Sam, aka My Lovely Sam. He and I are working together at the moment, and he seems to be enjoying all of the special attention I give him. I guess he isn't the prettiest horse in the world, as he has a nasty scar on his face, possibly from a kick. It is curved like a hoof, giving him a rather piratical look.  But he is very sweet, and has a contented air about him. He isn't a beginner's horse, as he is quite a spooker, but we only had one funny moment today, and I think that was because I put too much leg on to encourage him to extend his trot across the arena. We zipped forward, but he has good brakes. Bay Sam is naturally a lazy boy, but goes when required. We managed to produce some lovely transitions today, and I did two 20m circles in a row at canter, enjoying every stride. Sam sneaks back to trot if I don't keep at him, so now I've got better balance at canter I can concentrate on steering and keeping him moving forward. So much fun! As you can see, I wore a very cool top today, under my big safety vest, so I felt better riding in the hot conditions. I know my vest is a bit cumbersome, but I feel much more confident wearing it. I feel like it is the safety belt I was missing before. 
This is the only photo in which we both look sane. I've got my really fun flowery glasses on, but somehow they make me look like a mad chipmunk. Sam didn't really want to pose with his head nicely positioned. In one photo he has his mouth wide open. After our wee photoshoot, Sam and I headed out to the cross country course and I felt really confident going up and down the little banks. Great fun! 

After our wonderful ride Sam was totally happy when I gave him a big shower and cooled his legs with the hose. Better than the last shower I gave him when he spooked and took off like a rampant stallion. Then I hung out with him up under the trees while he had a big grassy snack and I watched the action in the arena. I am in love (again). 

Today we also went to the Riccarton House Farmer's Market and bought everything from a lovely lettuce, to spicy sausage, fudge, blueberries, chocolate, walnuts and various baked items. It really is a wonderful market with beautiful produce. I must remember to take the little camera everywhere I go. 

Friday, January 13, 2012


It was my darling boy's birthday yesterday. Now he has caught up with me in age. His mum and her friend are staying. We took a trip out to Sumner for a prowl along the beach. We haven't been there in over 18 months. The cliffs are precariously holding together, and you can see the vacant, damaged houses all over the place. Strange to think how long they have been tucked safely up high on the volcanic rock, until one fateful day. What a privilege it would have been to have had the stunning view out over the bay. Now the crumbling cliffs are worthless. The esplanade and beach are the same as always, and less populated.

Johnny got some cool presents, including a rather remarkable skull bike light. We had brunch at the local cafe, and had absolutely delicious Mexican food at The Flying Burrito Brothers. Today we went out to Oxford to Seagar's Cafe, which was lovely, and worth a drive out. We popped into Femme de Brocante to look at the gorgeous fabrics. I didn't buy any oilcloth as I decided that I prefer the Cath Kidston stuff. Some of the furnishing fabrics were absolutely divine, and priced at around $35 a metre, not a bad price.

Look at the goodies from my garden. This is the first carrot out of the spring planting and it is a beauty. Or, was a beauty. It went into tonight's salad.

Tomorrow we are going to the Riccarton House Farmer's Market with the visitors. Then I've got a riding lesson. Celine and Erika are planning a wee dressage/show day at Scarlett Oak in about three weeks, and I am probably riding My Lovely Sam (not grey Sam, the bay one- I'll take a photo tomorrow). I am working hard on my dressage skills, especially my cantering. Celine says I'm not a beginner anymore, so I can enter the dressage test with the canter. Bay Sam is probably a better mount for the competition than Navarro because he is more supple and experienced, although he spooks at things like passing butterflies. Luckily he just shoots forward a bit when he gets a fright, unlike Grey Sam, who does a full on sideways thrash, leaving me quivering in terror. Navarro is doing lots of work with beginners at the moment, and Celine says Bay Sam is much better utilised for her more experienced riders like me (!!!!). I think I'll always consider myself a beginner! I will be getting together with Navarro for jump lessons sometime, I should think. I saw him trundling merrily over some jumps the other day, and he looked really cute and safe. I never thought I would learn to jump, but I think it would be great for my balance.

We are watching a Harry Potter movie, and Johnny has decided that Dumbledore's memory keeping cupboard would be no good in an earthquake. I'm sure Dumbledore has some magical protection against such things. Shame we can't do the same thing here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Happy Birthday to my darling Dad! 70 today. I hope you had a fun day and we wish we had been there to have lunch out with the family. Hope you like your present. We thought a scroll saw would be very useful for your toy making enterprises. Hmm. Could come in very handy for making items I need too!

I bet Dad could make me some lovely letters like these ones using a scroll saw. I love love love the way these turned out!!! The paper is utterly gorgeous. I painted the edges of the letters using a Karen Walker testpot in Powder Blue, then carefully glued the paper on before cutting around the letters with a craft knife. Apparently papercraft like this is called "off the page" scrapbooking. This is about as minimalist as it gets.

I whipped up this little fabric corsage too. I set a wee crafty challenge - this had to be made of fabric and use lace or a doily. Since I only have a huge doily in my possession currently, I used some vintage lace. Sorry this photo only shows it from the top. Johnny found my little camera- yay! I was sure it was lost for good. Anyway, for some reason, this corsage is like the Bermuda Triangle of photographic subjects, and the little camera just refused to behave. Half the trouble is that there are buttons on the camera, but I have no idea what they do. When I start pushing them I seem to get into more and more trouble.

I created my first "layout" for my scrapbook. It is really simple, and I'm sure the next one will be more elaborate. The photos are from January 1991 during the time when Johnny came up to stay with me in the holidays. We look so happy in the photos.

Our new fridge arrived this morning. We are very pleased with it, and I'm sure that the size will make things easier. It is quieter than the old one too.

Two exciting things happen tomorrow. John's mum and her friend are coming to stay. I've also got my first riding lesson for the year. I think I'll be riding my friend Mr Spotty Bottom, Navarro. I'll take the little camera along. Navarro seems to smile when his photo is taken. Jasper does too, but Miss Dog usually looks embarrassed.

Happy birthday Dadsy! Don't chop anything important off with your new saw!!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012


I got a headache yesterday that hung around overnight and lurked until I had a sleep this afternoon. I think it might still be waiting in the wings. Now I'm left feeling sort of anxious and restless, which sometimes happens after a headache. We had Caroline and Shaun to stay on Saturday night, which was fun. We did a bit of a tour of the city, then had delicious Thai food for tea. We also had a good laugh watching movies. We've had a busy time with visitors. Miss Dog has been very pleased, and Jasper has been more sociable than he usually is with new people.

I'm having a bit of a dabble at scrapbooking. The Crafty Neighbour and I visiting a scrapbook shop in Rolleston, which was fascinating. I found a really pretty range that I love and got a few bits to get started. Today I picked up some more paper and some pens at Warehouse Stationery. I did one page with two photos from our youth. I got some wooden letters- P and B - a while ago, and I painted the edge of them today and once thoroughly dry I will glue some pretty paper onto them. I've had a look through some scrapbooking magazines and a lot of if doesn't appeal, but I guess other people's grinning children peering out of the pages are bound to put me off. I do love lots of the vintage styled bits and pieces. No surprises there!

We're getting a new fridge tomorrow. It will be bigger than the old one.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I had a lovely day today working in the garden and doing jobs around the house. I thought I'd show you a few things I've been given or acquired recently. These treasures came from Alison at So Tread Softly, given to me by Mrs. CT. Al is so clever making gorgeous things from fabric. I love bird imagery, and this wee purse is too sweet to use! The three flower roses make a brooch that I'm sure will get many outings.

Look at this very cool footstool that we found at a wee vintage shop in Nelson. Meg and I decided to Cath Kidston up our houses this year. Although not original Cath Kidston, the cowboy fabric has a fun vintage feel.

My brother, Former Fisherman Jim, gave me this fantastic bag for my 40th birthday present. His friend Bronwyn made it. It is so beautifully made, and was perfect on my outing to Viv's place yesterday as it holds just the right amount. For me that includes wallet, keys, little bag of toiletries/headache pills, hanky, tin of Rawleigh's Medicated Ointment (for lipbalm etc), hanky and a cardy. Funny how men just seem to jam their utilitarian wallet into their pocket and off they go.

I got this great cookbook from Johnny.

Jim said he managed to sell his artichokes for a good price. Most of mine have started fluffing up into giant landing pads for bumblebees. I do have plans to eat this one though.

The feijoas are flowering liberally. I might have to make some into chutney or something like that as I think there will be too many to eat.

Today I bought three sturdy pepper plants, an Anaheim, a habanero and a wildfire chilli, and put them in the glasshouse. I've got some outside, but I think the glasshouse will be a great place to produce plenty of chillis for cooking.

Look- corn tassles forming! Hope the earwigs stay away. Last year I was too soft on the wee critters and let them have the corn. This year I'll be a heartless corn farmer.

I love the way the purple bean stems are winding their way up the corn.

Now this corner took a lot of my time today. Miss Dog considered herself a critical part of the operation, and was within arm's reach of me the whole time I was gardening. Johnny resorted to spraying before we went away because this corner is filled with nasty types of weeds. I had plants lurking in half of the area, so we couldn't use spray. I got in and weeded all around my precious plants.

We watched The Princess Bride last night. Well worth a watch as it is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Horses and more horses

Ahhh- great relief as I've had my horse fix. It feels like ages since my last horsey cuddle so today I went out to horse heaven at the Butcher farm. It was a typical afternoon for Emily. She was schooling horses so I helped to get them ready and watched some action. She was working with some challenging horses. Lucy, for example, was wearing a flash strap on her bridle for the first time, and was not at all amused. She tries to lie down when things don't go her way. She's just a baby really, and is learning how to be a real horse. I'm very fond of her because she loves scratches and cuddles. Lucy belongs to Emily's mum. One of the other horses Em rode today was a real handful. I was rather scared for her, but she was totally calm until he reared. She sprang off and gave him a darn good telling off. I thought it was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. He stood perfectly while she got back on and was good as gold after that. Another one was a bucker. She schools people's tricky horses to get them back on track. I had lots of time with my horsey friend Ben. He is such a sweetheart and we are very good friends now. Oscar let me give him a wee scratch and stroke too. I helped with feeding time too. Every horse gets a bucket of hard feed and chaff except for the poor fatties, who are on a diet (like me, so I felt sorry for them). There are over 20 horses in individual paddocks, so it is quite a big job.

Oh- Zanny news. I told you previously that she wasn't pregnant at her last scan, so was whisked off for a hot date with her husband again. In spite of her scan, which showed it was time to make a foal, she was having none of the man in her life and told him to bugger off. So now she is waiting for another couple of weeks until her next "in season" time and hopefully he'll look a lot more attractive then. No riding for me then, but I'd rather she had a chance to have another foal, as it may be her last. It would be so lovely to be involved with her right through her pregnancy, birth and as a mummy.

Other little snippets of news:
-Johnny got some super tough shorts like Jim's brown pants and loves them.
-Jasper is settled and happy after his big holiday.
-Miss Dog is still shedding like crazy.
-I harvested my second tomato today.
-Baz, Johnny's four wheel drive, needs a new tow bar after his little accident.
-Johnny is playing golf tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Taming the jungle

As usual, upon our return from our Christmas holiday, the garden has gone wild. Today we spent quite a bit of time taming it. There were lots of treasures to discover, and I ate the first tomato. The lavender plants were not looking their best, so I gave all eight of them a good trim. Not a job I relish, I have to say, as it is rather hard on my hands. I always feel a little concerned that the lavenders will be past their best and will need replacing. You never want to cut into old wood as it won't bush up again, but sometimes the old wood takes up a whole side if conditions haven't been the best, and a light trim turns into an execution. I'm trying to remain optimistic about a couple of them. We'll see in about a month, I guess.

We went and picked up Mr Ginger Jasper this morning. He was very pleased to see us! He is quite slim and has eaten like mad since he got home. He had a bowl of food in his pen, but I'm guessing he was a rather anxious pussycat, which always ruins his appetite. He is very purry, but also a little grouchy.

Take a look at these photos around the garden. The corn is shooting up, with beans scrambling and pumpkins sprawling in the Three Sisters garden. The tomatoes required a bit of a firm hand today so that I could go into the glasshouse. My globe artichokes are bursting into gorgeous fluffy blooms, which the bumblebees love. The weeds are at their best, and I must evict them very promptly because they are starting to set seed. Today I filled a huge wool sack with weeds, lettuce towers and prunings. Sadly I can't manage all of the garden waste I produce in my compost heaps, but fortunately it goes into the green waste department at the dump where it is made into compost for the city.

Nigella is making a ridiculously decadent chocolate peanut butter cheesecake on our television currently. I made absolutely delicious spaghetti with a fresh tomato and red onion sauce with periperi (chilli) shrimps. It was super simple. For one serving (Johnny had his own concoction as he doesn't like shrimps) I thawed one serve of cooked shrimp and sprinkled them with some Nandos hot periperi sauce and some smoked garlic salt. I softened some sliced red onion in olive oil and added some garlic. Then I popped in two lovely plump chopped up tomatoes and cooked until softened. In went the shrimp and some fresh basil, plus some smoked garlic salt and pepper to make it delicious. I just heated the shrimp through then poured the whole lot over some cooked spaghetti. Yum. Super yum. Probably nicer than Nigella's cheesecake.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I'm back!

Well, our big Christmas family holiday to the north of the island is over. We had quite an eventful trip home. Baz, our four wheel drive, got rear ended by a sedan just out of Spring's Junction (at that big, long one lane bridge). Let's just say Baz is in one piece, and the car that tried to violate him from behind won't be going anywhere for quite some time. Baz made a big crunch in the front and a hole in the radiator with his sturdy tow bar. Miss Dog got a bit of a surprise being flung around, but luckily she was wearing her safety harness and didn't come to any harm. All of the young holiday-makers in the other car were fine.

We had a lovely holiday with the family. I got some cool presents which I'll show you soon, and we ate lots of delicious food. Seeing wee Henry was just brilliant. He loves animals like I do, and has quirky interests. He and I had a bit of fun chatting about sheep poo. Maybe he will grow up to be a vet. His cat handling skills need a bit of work, but he is a firm dog handler already. Two year olds are wee sponges and it was fascinating to hear Henry's language developing each day.

Poor Christchurch has been rattling again. The day we left was the start of a new series of earthquakes. We've already had a 4.8 one this evening. They don't bother me because, having experienced literally thousands since September 2010, I'm used to them. I guess the fear is really of the potential for another highly destructive one. Our habits have changed significantly and we now identify hazards wherever we go. While shopping in Motueka, I noticed myself jumping and going on alert when a truck rumbled on the main street. That happens constantly.

Miss Dog is fast asleep on her blanket. I've assumed my usual spot on the couch with a quilt on my lap. Johnny is pottering around. Life is good. Love to all. I miss the family already! XXX