Sunday, October 28, 2012


I am rather disappointed in myself for not taking photos this weekend. I was struck down by a nasty headache yesterday, so I was in survival mode, rather than thinking about blogging. Johnny did take me in to the Restart Mall, which was having its first birthday. There was a huge queue for cake, and lots of people enjoying the shops, stalls and buskers. I was pleased with our purchase of a tui to match my fantail mirror, plus some butterfly mirrors to go with my china plate butterfly. Photos to come. Plus Johnny got some awesome jandals. I got some lemon sherbet sweets from the old fashioned grocery shop, Johnson's Grocery. There was a sign outside the door announcing the arrival of some Stilton cheese, and unfortunately the smell in the shop also announced the arrival of the cheese. That didn't stop the crowds. 

I did some serious weeding today. The front border had been infiltrated by grass, and there was a clover plantation under the laurels. I had to take action over some unruly poppies as well. 

I went out to visit Zanny. Frazer is looking so big and handsome now he is heading for three years old. Here he is as a little man only a few days old. He was friendly from the day he was born.

 Hopefully Zanny is carrying a bit more weight this time around. She already looks skinny here and she had only been feeding for a few days. Frazer had very long legs, with great bones.
Then a few months later he had grown a lot. Dear Zanny was so happy to share her baby with visitors. 
I am naturally anxious about the next few weeks as Zanny gets closer to delivery. She is looking vast and uncomfortable. I must take a photo next week from the front or back because her tummy is impressive. Today I gave her a brush, then we had a graze in the long grass. When I returned her to the paddock Dolly, the Standardbred, was hanging around so I grabbed her for some attention, much to her surprise. She belongs to the neighbours as a pet, but doesn't like being caught, so she wanders around happily in her big paddock free from any concerns or bothers. I took her to the yard for a brush. She was mildly alarmed, and produced the biggest poo I have ever seen a horse do. Dolly is notorious for her rotund figure, so I'm not sure whether it was nerves or her remarkable capacity for grass that caused the giant output. I had fun fussing over her, and hopefully I can catch her again for some more attention. 

I planted some beetroot, lettuce and radish seeds this evening. Casting my eyes over photos of previous years vegetable plots have given me hope. I've got onions, shallots, peas, tomatoes, garlic, pak choy, rocket, chard, spinach, radishes and coriander growing in the outside beds. The greenbouse has a big tomato and small ones, plus some chili and capsicum plants. I also have my trays of seeds. I actually have possibly hundreds of tomato seedlings popping up everywhere in the greenhouse soil. Quite scary as I hate to waste them. If I had the time and energy I could pot them up to sell at school. 

Right now I'm enjoying:
  • Downton Abbey Series One borrowed from Barbara. The costumes. The story lines. Heavenly. 
  • The Icebar Co. ginger beer iceblocks. The weather is heating up!
  • The latest New Zealand Gardener magazine. Full of interesting stuff. 
  • Cuddles with my animal friends. Wee cuddles with Mr Mouse, middle sized wriggly cuddles with Miss Dog and great big delicious smelling horse cuddles with Zanny. 
  • Happy salad greens- much nicer than sad wintery ones. 
  • Asparagus. I like mine cooked until soft. Possibly a food crime, but it tastes better to me than crispy stuff, and I like the texture. 
  • Halloween with my class. We made fabulous springy legged spiders and then created some decorated biscuit ones with hairy chocolate hail backs and licorice legs. Too bad if it isn't PC, I love a few good witches, ghosts and goblins. 
  • Bed time. I think I might head for my nest now. Goodnight!

Monday, October 22, 2012


The rain is gurgling in the downpipes outside the window this evening. After our lovely fine weekend, the rain has moistened the garden and made Mouse rather frustrated. He loves to play outside but isn't sure about the rain. He is lying on his back on a quilt peacefully napping. 

I had a bit of time sewing before my sewing machine threw a hissy fit and I had to spend considerable time fiddling before deciding the needle may be fractionally bent. I replaced it, resulting in resumption of sewing, but by then I was ready for a cup of tea. Or "Coffee O'Clock" as we say when summoning The Crafty Neighbours over for afternoon tea, which is a regular event around here. We love The Crafty Neighbours as they are just like having family next door. I would LOVE to have my family living in our wee street. We would have so much fun. 

On the tea theme, I have been getting a few treasures out at last. They have been in hiding for years due to earthquake risk, so it was lovely to make a wee display with my primrose china collection. Here is one of my most special trios. I have searched high and low to find out about this design and eventually discovered that it is Royal Paragon G1771. It doesn't seem to have a name. It is actually a very pretty bright green and yellow, but the flash washed the colour out. I believe it is a 1930s set, and on the base it says it is a replica of china made for Her Majesty the Queen. It is hand painted with bright gilt trims. Gorgeous. I wish I could find out more about it. 
 This is a lovely wee set, and I need to look for a side plate to match. I think this is a more common design by Aynsley.
 This is Royal Albert Primulette which is very sweet. Royal Albert did some very special floral patterns.
 I'm very fond of this glass pedestal dish too. It is quite sturdy and heavy.
 Much of my favourite china is floral chintz designs. This is such a delicious pattern created by Crown Ducal on a large plate.
 I also love this Empire Staffordshire wattle patterned chintz with the squiggly gilt border.
 I must get the rest of my little chintz collection out of the cupboard, and start adding to it. I don't mind a bit of wear because it shows the china was used, plus mint condition chintz is very expensive.

Johnny is another treasure around here. He even cut a good inch off my hair this morning. I was getting a bit restless about chopping it all off into a bob again when I decided that whacking a bit off the length to tidy it up would make it easier to manage. Naturally Johnny was reluctant, but as my hair is now randomly very wavy at the ends (a relatively recent phenomenon) it really doesn't matter about being accurate when chopping. I was pleased with the result, in spite of humidity frizz today.

Johnny was also a treasure at dinner time because he was watching Hugh F.W. making pasties and decided to make his own.
 WOW! These would give a fancy gourmet pastie a run for its money.
He made them with Mum and Dad's agria spuds, beef mince, mushrooms and other secret ingredients. He's becoming more and more interested in cooking and I'm very pleased indeed. Keep up the great work, I say!

Apparently Christchurch is one of the top 10 places in the world to visit according to Lonely Planet (or another travel guidey thingy). Not sure if today would be the best day for tourists, with the rain pelting down. It is still encouraging to hear that the city is getting back into business instead of having a bit of an undeserved no-go reputation. I think that there is a lot to see and do in Christchurch, and it can only get better and better. Plus you can get a look at the effects of a massive earthquake on a city while staying in relative comfort in the minimally damaged areas.

Only four work days for us this week. That sounds fantastic to me!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lovely Labour Weekend

Oh yes- a long weekend! We have had two lovely sunny days. Tomorrow is supposed to be very wet. I got to see Zanny yesterday, and as she only has about a month to go until the foal is born, her tummy is a vast expanse when I reach under her to get into every furry spot with the brush. She always seems thrilled to see me, probably because now I bring treats and a thorough scratchy brushing, rather than a saddle and bridle. Plus I hang out with her while she grazes on the luxury hayshed paddock grass. 

Of course there has been gardening. So many pretty and interesting things to see in the garden. I love it!

 Oooh- look how handsome Mr Mouse is as a grown up boy.
 Mousie takes a great deal of interest in gardening. He is checking out the shallots. Not digging a toilet.
By the way, he did have an unfortunate accident earlier this week when he was investigating the toilet in my bathroom and slipped off the toilet seat and fell in with his back end. He got very wet paws and wasn't pleased. All I could do was laugh. He has very furry feet - not good for gripping slippery surfaces. 

Here is my homemade "Portrait Blouse" from my new book Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing." Check out Gertie's blog. The fabric is quite stiff and sort of sits on my body, rather than drapes into my curves, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing for disguising the exuberantly lavish areas. I could refine the fit a bit, but for my first effort, I'm pleased. The fabric is vintage.
 This is my current project, the shirtwaist dress. I love this vintage style print. This is the shirring battle underway. The elastic is hand-wound onto the bobbin, and then stitched with a regular thread in the top. My machine was not very keen on this idea. Once the six rows were completed (eventually), I carefully steamed over the stitching with my iron and the shirring crinkled up like magic!

Today I'm coveting some goodies from Cath Kidston. I've loved this dear wee rose and birdie fabric for ages.
 I was delighted to find some fantastic horsey prints appearing.
 Sweet wee stocking fillers.
 I had to have a good peer at this before I decided -yes- I want one. Or do you think it looks a bit tacky?
 I love these little badges! Who can resist red squirrels and foxes?
There are lots more gorgeous things on the Cath Kidston website that I love! Maybe I'll share some more with you another day. 

By the way, Nigella Lawson sucked me into trying the new Whittaker's Creamy Milk Chocolate which is now "5 roll refined." If you love Whittaker's chocolate you are going to love this. It has a creamier texture. Divine. Thanks Nigella. Now resisting chocolate at the supermarket is going to be even harder. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quick note and a link

I've had a very busy day grooming at the One Day Event at Mcleans Island today. We were looking after TC, Lewis, Hurrah, Johnny and Billy, and they were all good boys who tried hard. Yesterday was so wet and this morning did not look at all promising, so I took my raincoat rather than my camera. The sun came out in a blaze of light, and I'm hoping the moisturiser with sunscreen worked so I won't be starting the new term with an extra rosy face.

Mouse was very pleased because his Auntie Emily came to visit. She couldn't believe how big he has grown. He has all of his adult teeth, and no longer feels as light as a feather. As she is a vet she could check out his wonky jaw and we were delighted to hear that his teeth have lined up in a way which means he won't need surgery to remove his lower fangs. There was a possibility that he would not be able to close his mouth properly because his fangs would spike into the top of his mouth. We all love it when Emily comes to visit.

I'm underway with the first dress project. I ran into quite a battle over the shirring. The shirtwaist dress requires shirring in a band across the lower back. I've never tackled shirring before, and nor has my sewing machine. We did have some major disagreements, because following the first row, disaster kept striking. I even ended up opening her up and giving her a good clean inside, because I kept having hideous tangles. The final tangle occurred 10cm from the end of the last row. Frustrating, but I got there in the end, and figured out a few strategies to manage my machine when shirring, so hopefully I'll have a few less tangles next time.

I'll be starting back at school tomorrow. I want to remember my important message which is to celebrate each and every day because life passes so quickly, and you don't know what is around the corner. And to all women, and men too, check out the Our Women website for important information on breast cancer. Self-checking and regular mammograms from 40 could save your life.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Keeping busy

Today was a happy, busy day. Johnny worked hard on my new raised vegetable patches. I planted lots of sweetpeas with plenty of horse poo compost to give them a boost. I also did lots of weeding, and hardly made a clearing in the jungle.

I popped out to see the largest love of my life, Zanny, who continues to expand each time I see her. I imagine the foal curled up tight in her big, rounded tummy. I had to walk right up the paddock to get her today, and I didn't realise Shadow, the fox terrier, had followed me. As I turned around with Zanny Frazer (Zanny's two year old son) started chasing Shadow down the paddock at high speed. Poor Shadow could barely keep ahead of Frazer, who had thundering hooves and a menacing air about him. Very scary. I guess Shadow was extremely relieved to be through the electric fence to safety, after his frantic 100m sprint. I'm hoping that Frazer was just playing, but it was horrible to watch. Frazer is getting too big for his boots, and I'll be quite glad when Emily starts breaking him in, because I think he's a bit bored in the paddock. She will start working with him in January.

Anyway, Zanny enjoyed her brush, and had plenty of carrots to munch. I trimmed up the feathery hairs on her fetlocks, and now she resembles a very rotund show horse (in my dreams).

I got busy this evening and cut the fabric for my first dress. I pinned my muslin and think it will fit ok. Hopefully. I did run into one issue. I discovered that the fabric is not wide enough for the pattern at the bottom of the skirt. Oops. Never mind. I made it work. I hope. If I get cracking, we might find out tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The winner is...

Leander! Actually the annual "First Rose of the Season" competition was a tie. 
 I discovered Best Wishes had a sneaky bloom tucked down low, which made me very pleased indeed.
 So, on the day of our dear wee nephew's third birthday, the first roses are blooming, and it was a glorious, warm, sunny day.

I started working on the toile/muslin of my first dress pattern when The Crafty Neighbour came over for a chat and afternoon tea, which was lovely, as always. The rest of the day was spent outdoors. Johnny is creating my new raised beds in the back vegetable garden. I'm so excited. We initially built some rough raised beds, and are now replacing them with permanent bigger beds, which match my other ones. I will show you the before and after pictures another day. Meanwhile, take a look at a few treasures from my colourful garden. I love flowers so much!

Pretty blue miniature iris.
 Sweet peas, self sown from last year's crop. I planted some more of these today. I have grown approximately 100 from seed, and now have to find places for them to go.
 Sun Disk jonquils. I have quite a clump of these, and they are just coming out now. They are the latest daffodils in my garden.
 Bluebells. These are the Spanish ones, I think. They are quite sturdy and lavish looking. I have the more petite English ones too.
 Dutch irises. I have quite a few of these in mixed clumps. They seem to be happily multiplying.
 My wee friends, the pansies. I love their delightful, happy faces.
I hope you enjoyed seeing just a few of the treasures in my garden. We'll be doing some more work on the vegetable patches tomorrow. I hope to go to visit Zanny too, as the weather is supposed to be nasty on Saturday. A good sewing day, I hope. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Little Helper

Greetings readers! As promised, I am starting my journey to being a seamstress extraordinaire. And lucky you - you get to come along for the ride. Of course I'm still squeezing in all of my other activities and interests as well. Apparently sewing clothes shouldn't be too much of a bother. 
And with the support of the lovely Gertie, I'm sure to learn lots of new things. In fact, just reading her new book has provided me with some very valuable information, not least of which is how to fit a pattern to my curves.
 Gertie has a wonderful blog - Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, which is well worth following if you are into sewing vintage styled clothing. Plus she loves animals and is an entertaining writer.

I have already had a go at two projects from her new book, The Portrait Blouse, and The Pencil Skirt, which I will show you once I've got the skirt completed. Now I've got a more ambitious plan in mind- The Shirtwaist Dress. I can imagine summer days in this dress, and Gertie has promised this is an everyday, do most things dress with a very comfortable fit due to shirring across the lower back. I was drawn to the delicious fabric she has used, which is a Liberty tana lawn.
 Making clothing from multi-sized patterns in a book involves rather a labour of love because you have to create your own patterns. Now I don't know what people usually do around here, but I don't have huge sheets of tracing paper handy. I was having a poke around wondering what I could make my patterns out of when I found a big roll of frost cloth in the garage. It is a bit like a very light interfacing fabric and I discovered that I can see through it to trace, and write directly onto it with a pen. It can be pinned onto fabric very easily, and doesn't crease or rip when handling it. What a brilliant discovery!

 My little helper was on hand, and needed a lot of reminders that scissors are sharp, pins are not toys, and that grabbing the edge of the frost cloth when I am tracing does not make him a popular wee critter.
 But everything is so exciting!
 In spite of the dabbling paws, tools being stolen and patterns being dragged onto the floor, I now have the patterns I need for two different dresses, a skirt and a top.

You can't make dresses without fabric. And because I am concerned about the possibility of disaster, I did not want to buy expensive fabric. Tana lawn was definitely not an option. Out of the thousands of bolts of fabric (mostly revolting) at Spotlight, I did find three poly-cotton (yes- polyester- send me straight to Hell) dress fabrics that were cheap and cheerful for my trial dresses.

Now Gertie has a remarkable collection of tattoos and is clearly working her way towards having two full sleeves. When I shared my Gertie book with my gorgeous Mummy, she said she hoped I'm not planning to get any of those, which made me laugh, knowing my pathetic pain threshold and extraordinarily high self-preservation instinct. Then The Crafty Neighbour said she can imagine me with tattoos like Gertie has, which made me laugh even more. So when I saw this nautical themed fabric, it reminded me of traditional seafarer's tattoos, so I had to have it. My own fabric tattoo in a dress.
 Of course, florals and spots appealed.
 And all over blossoms are very pretty. I think this one might not be particularly slimming, but who cares when the print is so sweet (and the price is right).
I do have to make a bodice toile - which is a little trial run in cheap fabric (cheaper than poly-cotton?- yes, an old sheet). I thought about cutting into my fabric immediately, being an impatient soul, but I really need to make sure I can cram my generous bosom into the dress bodice, because gaping buttons are not pretty. Then I can adjust the pattern if necessary. Clever!

Life has not been all about slaving over the dining table making dress patterns. I also managed to sneak in a treat for Johnny - macaroons. My baking skills do not stretch to creating these sweeties, so I cracked open my purse and chose some flavours I thought he'd like. Lemon, rose and raspberry with vanilla. We loved them all, but the rose ones were amazing. Aren't the colours just perfect!
 Today was a great day. I zoomed out to see my darling Zanny. I don't think I've shared my wonderful horse news with you!!!! Once Zanny has weaned her foal Viv is giving her to ME!!!!!! She will be my very own horse. She will continue to live out at the farm with all of the other horses, but I can officially have her. I still have to hope all goes well with her birth and recovery. She gives everything she has to her foals, and becomes shockingly skinny, in spite of lots of extra food. I keep giving her time to graze on the best grass on the farm, and give her as many treats as I can to fatten her up. She has about 1 1/2 months until her due date. I keep giving her big cuddles and snuggling my face into her warm neck, which she doesn't seem to mind. She was in a bit of a cheeky mood today, which is always fun. Today the farrier came and we decided to take her shoes off, and she had a pedicure. I am so excited that I will be able to have Zanny because I love her so much and even though it is obvious that we are perfectly suited, I had the fear that we would be parted next year, and some other lucky person would get her.

Mousie has been busy making a new friend too. Miss Molly May (The Crafty Neighbour's dog) and Mr Mouse have been playing together. Mousie is as big as she is now, and he loves chasing her around the coffee table and chairs. Miss Dog was being lazy outside, so Molly though Mousie was a lot more fun.
Who know what tomorrow will bring, but I'm hoping for great things, as always.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Jolly Jaunt Across the Island

We had a very exciting weekend! We were invited to stay over at a very tiny place on the West Coast of the South Island called Nelson Creek. It is a beautiful place set in native bush and green farmland, with a beautiful tannin stained river meandering through, and evidence of long-abandoned mining activities everywhere. 

Now saying that Nelson Creek is tiny does not mean the place we stayed was tiny. I won't show you a photo because it is a private residence, but, as the future permanent residence of a relative of our friends, it is luxuriously appointed, with gorgeous views. The property also features a barn, an original miner's cottage and a "cabin" (which is also very luxurious). Lots of family members can come to stay, which is a good thing because the extended family is very large. 

The weather was extremely changeable, and we had heavy rain, hail, thunder, glorious sun, wind, warmth and a real chill over just one weekend. We wanted to have a look around the area and went to visit here:
Most South Islanders would be familiar with The Pancake Rocks, at Punakaiki. We were both young when we were went there last, and it was just as wonderful as we remembered. The only drawback was the freezing wind, hail and heavy rain. Lucky I got a new raincoat for the occasion. Johnny was well bundled up too. 

 The swirling pools were dramatic in the rough weather.
 One of the special features of The Pancake Rocks is the blowholes. I caught this one in action.
 We could taste the salt, and I was scared my camera would drown.
 The layers of rock are fascinating and beautiful.
 The drive around the coast is dramatic. Johnny took this photo out of the window of the car. It was so wet we could hardly see the view.
 Nelson Creek has a small camping ground with playground and some lovely, easy walkways through the bush.

 Shadow, the fox terrier, enjoyed his holiday, but hurt his foot, probably when he went (unsuccessfully) Weka hunting. Wekas are big brown flightless birds that are native to New Zealand. They are about the size of a hen. I'm sure the Maori people would have found them easy to catch as they are very inquisitive. Wekas are classified as a "vulnerable"  species and efforts are being made to encourage breeding. We saw some from the car and heard one peeping in the bushes, but I didn't get a photo.
 The property we stayed at is VERY interesting, and even has an old mine shaft. I decided not to go exploring as the entrance hole looked rather small and wet.
 Unfortunately there is no telephone in the old phone box. The cellphone coverage is a bit dodgy too. You have to stand in particular places to get any coverage.
 The waterwheel makes a lovely sound in the bushes.
 Shadow led the way down the lane to the main road through Nelson Creek. The church is not being used now. It would make an interesting holiday home.
 There's a wonderful swimming hole, complete with mining tunnel. Apparently people go exploring from the top end of the tunnel quite a long way away and appear out of this end like creatures from the deep.
 The water is so brown that I think you would end up with a tan after repeated exposure when swimming. I thought the water would be very chilly, but it isn't.
 We were lucky to be able to come back over Arthur's Pass because there was only a one day window between snowfalls. Today chains are needed. The mountains are spectacular.
 There was a Kea hopping around at Arthur's Pass when we stopped for a look. Keas are large parrots native to New Zealand. They are about 40cm long and sturdy, with rusty red colouring on their backs when they fly. They are only found in the South Island in mountainous areas. They are known for being very intelligent and inquisitive, and can be quite destructive with those large beaks and claws. Like the Weka, they are classified as a "vulnerable" species.
 Everyone should travel over Arthur's Pass in their lifetime, as it is so beautiful and awe inspiring.
I can't wait to go over again for another visit. It takes around three hours from our place, and is a fascinating drive. Hopefully we'll get to visit in the summertime and go swimming in the river, explore the walking tracks and go on some touristy visits around the West Coast.