Monday, February 28, 2011

gardening fever

Never mind peak oil; we've a winter of expensive vegetables to plan against, not to mention the possibility of further seismic disruptions. Today I finished eating the red clover sprouts and began sprouting red cabbage seeds.

Outside, I laid two beer traps for the slugs. I weeded where the seeding parsley and pansies were more messy than productive and sowed coriander (all fingers crossed, in a low slugs garden bed) and rocket. In other vacant spots I sowed more rocket plus some mesclun. Brighid and I came home from the garden centre with lobelia for her garden, spinach and celery. My celery is still succumbing to disease so I'm planting the new lot a long way from the current plants.

Favourite Handyman arrived home with a huge bag of untreated wood shavings. It is all in the chook run at the moment, but tomorrow I need to take some out and add to the compost along with the bags of donkey poo.

We also bought daffodil bulbs and a new watering can. This one is metal so I hope it lasts better than the plastic one I only bought five years ago.

I'm starting to plan the winter garden. Central to the project is where the garlic goes. It has been in a new bed each year so far but this year we've not created any new garden. It will have to go in the same bed (the punga raised bed) which I planted it in 2008, which is not quite the four year rotation which I believed in from some book long ago, but by winter we should have added more new soil to that bed so not same old same old soil and viruses. I need to sow some cavolo nero seeds and hope I can get them sufficiently established before winter. The other key factor for planning is where the spuds go in spring. I haven't decided yet.

In addition to the winter and spring vegetables, I have plenty of bulbs for spring colour: daffodils, irises, anemones and a collection of unnamed spring bulbs which I bought in the Bay of Islands last December, either from the Old Stone House in Kerikeri or from Pompallier House in Russell. They have to be planted yet.

Dinner was sushi. I mixed spirulina poweder into the rice and grated beetroot into the filling mixture with good results. Seriously.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blackberries and elderflowers

A friend from Christchurch posted on facebook last night of how grateful she felt that they (her family) had water and electricity, were all together, had cooked and shared a meal. She posted that she felt both grateful and simultaneously guilty. I remember that feeling most strongly from the days and weeks after the Pike River disaster. Now, as I look out the kitchen window at our garden and lawn and chooks, as I sleep well each night, disturbed only once by an aftershock on Friday night, I feel so lucky, a word stronger than lucky which I cannot find (if it exists).

I feel a big responsibility to make our place as earthquake ready as possible, to prepare for emergencies and maintain our house rather than go on holidays. I bought a large food grade plastic bucket from Simplifoods (used to be Binn Inn and still same kind of bulk buying shop) on Thursday. It once held golden syrup and now will hold (to be filled today) 28 litres of water for emergency supplies. I've been directing my energies into the garden rather than the sewing machine. Christchurch is the supply base for many many essential products on the West Coast and some shelves of the supermarkets have been stripped bare this week. I've planted some more leeks and begun the great herb rearrangement to free up more of the old chook run garden bed for growing vegetables. I transplanted one bay tree yesterday. I've also started some more sprouts for salads and bought more rocket seed. This is the front part of the old chook run below, minus the first bay tree. The bay trees, thyme, oregano and sunflowers have done well here, but as they have grown and spread, valuable vegetable growing space is being lost.

Yesterday afternoon was idyllic. The children and I visited our friend Raelene and collected donkey poo for the compost. The children played happily in the sun and when the big kids came back from their bike ride with purple mouths and the news of blackberries, we all set off with containers. We had some blackberries for pudding and after breakfast this morning and I have some aside for later today. We were blackberrying in an area where my late friend and relative Lou lived. Lou was a child in the 1930s depression in this area and for some of that time his father was out of work. Along with gathering blackberries, the family also went rabbiting and hunted wood pigeons to eat. It seemed rude that we were having such a lovely time when others over the hill are suffering so much, but also good that we were making use of local foods. I think I identified some elderberry blossom beside some of the blackberries. It's not very common on the West Coast compared to Canterbury and I need to look up how to propogate it.

We had good news for Brighid on Friday, after a worrying few days in which she seemed to get worse and specialist help was clearly going to be unavailable for some time. On Friday they did another ultrasound at our local hospital and the cavity is smaller and much of it has clotted. She still needs to be checked by the specialist but her body is healing, going in the right direction. We are so so so grateful.

To finish up my lovely afternoon yesterday, I jammed my own finger in the car door. So I'm typing without my right index finger which is now a funny shape and a funny colour and there will be no knitting and limited cooking and gardening until that improves.

Above and below, pumpkins which have grown from the buried bokashi. The top one is resting on the fence trellis.
My treasure: a musquee de provence pumpkin I grew from seed and which I found after I'd given up hope of any produce from this plant.

Not exactly picture perfect tomatoes, with holey shrivelled leaves beside the worn out fence, but exciting to me.
The bay tree in its new location with the other herbs by the back door. I had to prune the roots, so I pruned the top by a third as well. A local friend with a cafeteria was asking for fresh bay leaves recently, so he can have the prunings.
I'm pleased with the leeks in the photo above, and hopeful the purple sprouting broccoli will yield well. But the damned slugs have razed to the ground the three lettuce seedlings I planted in here just last week. Time to get the beer traps going.

The gunnera stump with salt on it, just before I poured boiling water on it. It's going to need more than that to kill it though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One foot in front of the other, walking thanks for being alive

What I did today:
Took all the glass down from the very top cupboards and took almost all of it to the dump. Bought some more bread for the freezer and some sterilising tablets. Cleaned some plastic bottles and gave some to Mary K for her emergency water supplies. The hardest thing for me personally about yesterday was finding Mary K shaking with fear beside the radio, listening to the news of the quake and unable to reach any of her family who live in Christchurch. Thankfully, within the next two hours we found that they were all safe. Not everyone has had such assurance. I know that my cousins are all okay but the stress for my aunty was such that she is now in Chch hospital, having suffered a heart attack last night.

Back to today. I went to the supermarket and grabbed some more bread while I could. Last night I spent up big time at the supermarket - $340 is an enormous shop for us. I was grateful that I could, that we have financial resources to enable us to prepare (and already be prepared - the cupboards were mostly in fairly good shape, possibly due to my genetic food hoarding inheritance). I thought of John Key's callous comments last week that beneficiaries who cannot pay their bills are people who make bad choices. Oh really? My aunty (the one in hospital) and uncle are both pensioners who I think make good choices. Yet after spending all night by his wife's bed, my uncle had no money to get home this morning (I expect he had some at home but hadn't remembered to bring any with him to hospital and the money machines in central Chch are not working at the moment). Thank goodness for my cousin who could collect him. I think of people without savings, people without spare food and toilet paper and torches and all the things which are not so hard to get a bit extra of during the year if you are a middle income earner and yet which are absent from the homes of many beneficiaries. Mr Key, what better choice should poor Cantabrians have made? Not lived in Christchurch? I do hope that our prime minister has the grace to apologise for his comments and sometime soon at that.

I spent more time with Mary K and we talked about plans and preparations for emergency situations here on the coast.

I went to a union meeting which pissed me off no end. I'm not able to speak about it now for a variety of reasons. I took Brighid with me as I'm reluctant to leave my kids if I can avoid it in the current climate of natural disaster and in the case of Brighid, her health. Earlier on today we had enjoyed a teddy bears picnic at kindy. I got in touch with the hospital and her appointment for her foot will be rescheduled when the clinic reopens next week. Meanwhile it is causing her increasing amounts of pain but the main thing I have to focus on is that she is alive and that her life is not under threat.

I also cut back the gunnera which is taking over the front garden and threw a chicken in the slow cooker. It wouldn't win a cooking competition or be bought twice in a restaurant, but slow cooked chicken served with quickly cooked noodles and chopped raw carrots and red peppers does deal to the challenge of having no cooking time most effectively.

And I rang my friend J in Chch and she is alive and safe.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Safe and sound in Wetville

We were running late this afternoon and luckily had not left home when the big quake hit (we felt it quite strongly here). So we are still on the West Coast, safe and thinking of everyone we know and those we don't in Christchurch. Thought I would post quickly for any regular readers who knew we were leaving today.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peace as the sun goes down

The rational part of me knows I am not the only parent to watch her children sleeping, to cross myself in the manner of my earliest prayers and worry half the night about a forthcoming challenge for the child I still remember birthing to the sound of the waves, in front of the fire.

To do all this and be tired and cranky the next day and subject the same beloved children to my short temper.

This afternoon I finally lay down and got some sleep and my perspective has improved so much since then. After dinner I watered the garden, weeded around the parsley, cut back the tansy, noticed the lemon verbena did not die but is thriving, found another pumpkin (tiny but exciting still), ate some tomatoes straight from the plant and transplanted six lettuces.

Back inside and at the computer, I read Wild Crafty's review of the book Eco Colour by India Flint and had a wee squiz at two of the linked sites. I feel completely uplifted by reading this review. Although the knitting in my hands as I read is home spun wool but dyed with commercial dyes, I still felt special in what I am doing. The capelet is growing nicely and is very soothing to knit. I am going to make it for Brighid now, this one. There is enough wool to do another for my little friend whose Nanna spun the wool. I imagine myself knitting it beside her bed when she is in hospital (I'd love it if that turns out not to be necessary but we have been warned that it is very probable) and having it ready to put over her shoulders if she is cold when she is recuperating.

Thank you to everyone who has sent their kind wishes and/or been thinking of Brighid. Tomorrow is an ordinary day, with Brighid's enthusiasm for kindy and the distraction of work for me. It's not so long now until this lack of knowing will lose much of its power - or so we (naturally) hope from the ultrasound and specialist consultation.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Project one. The image is from the pattern front (Burda 8308). I've cut out the pattern and fabric and threaded the machine.
Project two. The blue poncho, already renamed the blue capelet, because they are shorter. The Reader's Digest fan stitch goes:
row 1: *(K2tog) 3 times, (yfwd, K1) 6 times, (K2tog) 3 times*
rows 2 and 4: purl
rows 3, 5 and 6: knit
multiple of 18 stitches

I did a swatch with two needles and that came out most encouragingly. I like the scalloped cast on edge, which is why I set out to make a poncho/capelet from the bottom up. Then I cast on 180 stitches on circular needles. I'm only on row four and I've got my numbers out twice and forgot that knitting in the round means carry on in knit stitch to get a stocking stitch effect. But I'm going to carry on and learn from it as I go. It's not going in an A & P show competition.

I'm quite rattled by the prospect of Brighid having surgery. This making of dolls' clothes for her is one way of dealing with it. So far I've booked us accommodation for the night before the appointment and thought of a lot of things which I will have to arrange if surgery is straight away in order to have us all together to support her; things which need some planning before I go over. Tomorrow might be list time.

Thank you Heather for drawing my attention to a wonderful post on Maud Blacklidge.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Doll's pyjamas

When I was five and a half, my Mum made me a new set of sheets for my doll's cradle. It was very beautiful, and my friend Marija and I admired them. I took my doll, her cradle and new sheets with me to stay with Marija and her family for a couple of weeks. I was spoilt rotten there, with cute little notes in my lunch box and a friend to play with every day after school. One day the telephone rang with the news that I had a baby sister and she had black hair. I can still remember standing in the dining room in Tahunanui, hearing that news. Mum had new baby kit and so did I...

This memory came back to me tonight when my daughter asked about pyjamas for her doll. Next week we have to travel to Christchurch to see a medical specialist about her foot and surgery, whether next week or at a later date, is very likely. I recall there is a doll's clothes pattern in the half price rack at our local Bernina shop and have promised we can go and look tomorrow. I'm aiming to make some pyjamas for her doll (or some approximation of pjs) before we travel to Christchurch. Perhaps her doll will have a sore foot and need to come to hospital to get better like my daughter.

Now that the never ending purple cardigan project has finally finished, I am casting around for a new project. I'm keen that this one takes less than 12 months and uses wool already in my drawers. In 2009 a friend gave me a jersey, hoping I could put it to better use than he had. His mother and her friends had spun the wool from sheep on his parents' farm and then knitted it up into a beautiful white ribbed jersey which was rather impractical. Once I had also established how impractical a white jersey is, I enlisted the help of the lovely Megan to dye it for me. Now it is blue and I have undone and rewound about half of it. I'm playing around with making my own poncho pattern, using this wool to make a poncho for the same friend's daughter. Her birthday is not until June so there is some window. There is something called a fan stitch in my (Mum's) copy of Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlecraft which I am about to make a sample of. I would like to knit it in the round but I am still trying to work out how to get the increases right before I start.

Off to bed to read The Culture of Sewing some more. I'm reading about theorising home sewing by Cheryl Buckley at the moment and it is brilliant. Way way better than it might sound and I truly admire her ability at putting real lived experience of women she knows together with some pretty sophisticated gender studies theory.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Judith Binney

"This is not a history of the faith. I have written a biography, but it is not conceived as though there is a single understanding of its subject and his significance." - Judith Binney, Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, 1995, p.1.

Last night I read online of Judith Binney's death. I read the tribute to Binney's important historical work from Reading the Maps which he wrote when she was in hospital over a year ago after being hit by a vehicle. The news transported me back to 1995. Following the romantic invitation of a handsome young man I'd met in Dunedin a few months earlier, I'd waited tables for the devil at the Christchurch casino in between tutoring and researching for my thesis and thrown the dosh at a ticket to Auckland. He was a nice fellow but the romance was short lived. But what remains in my memory most strongly is a visit into the Ureweras we made on that trip north. We travelled on the train to Mount Maunganui, where he had a family bach, and on the way we looked at the Dictionary of Maori Biography, then a new publication. He was fascinated with the architecture and stories of the Ringatu meeting houses and with Te Kooti himself. It was catching.

The nice young man's father had worked in the forestry at Murupara for many years. He had formed very good relationships with many of the local Maori men working with him and had been invited onto the marae in the past. The nice young man, his elderly father and I drove into the Ureweras one day and I experienced a part of New Zealand so unique and so powerful, that I doubt I will ever forget it. We drove down from the north, through mist and along narrow rough shingled roads as far as Ruatahuna where we had lunch. I remember the stories as we drove and the thick thick bush that only a local could navigate. I remember going up a side road near Ruatahuna and enormous cattle and horses, black and wet, wandering slowly across the road, moving for no one. Everything seemed to have powerful mythological status.

Back down south, for my next birthday I bought Judith Binney's book Redemption Songs. I never finished it - the bookmark shows I got to page 115 - but it still has pride of place on a shelf in our study, one of a treasured collection of books which represent journeys into other worlds which I have loved. The other books mostly relate to my journeys into Pacific Island cultures when I was living in Auckland: several Sia Figiel books of fiction and a biography of Queen Salote. My book on London history, London: A Social History, by Roy Porter, represents not so much a journey as a sustained love affair. I have read every page just as I drank in London itself.

I look behind me now, curious as to what else is there. Janet Hunt's biography of Hone Tuwhare, which I have also read in its entirety, and the beautifully produced homage to Central Otago which my parents bought for me the Christmas after I finished my MA, Timeless Land, featuring the paintings of Grahame Sydney, the poems of Brian Turner and the short stories of Owen Marshall. We have a digital camera now which can take pictures of our holidays and adventures (this 'we' business of the last decade or so; there are few solitary adventures now), but it is books which seem to provide an enduring and infinitely richer capture of an experience.

Thank you Judith Binney. Your history books are taonga for all of us, forever. I hope you knew how special your gifts to New Zealand were before you died.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Home life

I dug some bokashi in today. I'm managing to fit some gardening in more than once per fortnight in fine weather, which is an improvement on last year. I think bokashi is an excellent cheap compost and although I wouldn't splash out on it if I had got the chooks first, having both is perfect. Now that our compost is under plastic, it isn't getting the water it used to get and it does seem a little dry. So I topped the bottom bokashi bucket up with water and tipped half of it on the compost. By my calculations, this should do marvellous things for the compost and if not, then I will learn to recalculate.

Brighid and I made our third visit to A & E this morning (Wednesday) and this afternoon she had an ultrasound, escorted by Favourite Handyman. The results are being sent to Christchurch and we have to go back to A & E on Friday. The possibility of an aneurism in the artery is being discussed, based on the ultrasound and she is in a pressure bandage for the next couple of days.

I've been a good little budgeter (all but giving up alcohol does help) and just as the credit card is cleared and the first mechanic's bill is paid and I'm saving for the biggie mechanic bill due next week and then after that I will get some wood, ... the oven has decided not to work. I'm not ringing the service person for that until we have paid for the mechanic and the wood. So yesterday instead of muffins for my visitors (most of them super short), I made pikelets. I've made them with moderate success before, but this time I used the electric whisk to beat the egg and sugar and the results were noticeably lighter and yummier. Between the slow cooker and the stovetop, there are plenty of recipe options, and the impossibility of baking cakes is not killing me. Our little barbeque also has a lid and I might experiment with cooking more than sausages on it. Now that I've got pikelets the way I want them, it could be time for a season of weekend pancakes....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On clothing and big busts.

This morning I read a post on clothing for big busts and feminism. I'm not here to take issue with that specific post; as I type, the comments count stands at 45 and no doubt will rise further, so there is a forum at The Hand Mirror if anyone wishes to debate the issues around feminism and a facebook thumbs up to a clothing shop which offers clothing for smaller women with larger busts. (I am deliberately using the term 'bust' rather than any alternatives given the nature of google searches)

But the link to a shop called Emma dovetailed nicely into some things I have been researching of late. The clothes on her website look pretty, not anything I expect to fit, and indeed smaller than my size. I'm not bothered by that - why would I pick one shop out of the majority of shops purporting to sell clothes for New Zealand women? But when the Wellington Young Woman's Collective published this on their fb page:

Hey ladies, here is a shop I discovered in Berhampore today which is FANTASTIC. Lovely handmade, locally designed ladies clothes and jewelry. And they fit ladies with big boobs, which is rarer than it should be. Yay for awesome local businesses! x

I was really pleased. Information on where to find clothes which fit for women with big busts is not easy and I'm surely not alone in having no interest in trawling fashion sites for information given that they norm a body size which is so thin as to make a large bust physically impossible without surgery. My sister and I have been discussing this issue via fb and email lately and I realise from her and slowly from myself that the key issue in terms of not finding anything to fit isn't necessarily fat, but body shape. Websites or networking sites which celebrate female diversity in a politically aware sense are possibly the only places to get this information. The clothing manufacturer called Emma may be only making clothes for smaller sizes now, but it is a useful start. Not to mention that if you spend a bit of time finding a bra for a larger cup size, you will notice not just a difficulty getting a larger cup size in a high band size, but also in a small band size. Not everyone who is a size eight is still in children's clothes; actually some of them want and need to look formal and professional for their career/work, and spilling out of their suit or squashed down the sides isn't dignity-enhancing. I could be quite wrong, but it seems to me that men's formalwear is designed to be much more accommodating of different shapes and sizes. I've been along for the project of male suit buying a few times and the process seems much simpler.

This weekend I was playing around on the internet, as is my habit in those precious moments when the children are asleep and I am not. I thought about what I have learnt about body shape from reading sewing blogs and the information on the seriously useful Pattern Review website and from critically reviewing garment construction after this reading. I used to wonder why no one saw a market on websites like Felt for clothing which fitted larger busted women and indeed larger sized women more generally. Now I understand more about garment construction and alterations, I realise two things: the most obvious one is that if you are selling clothes you make yourself, there is a better margin in small sizes as less fabric is involved. The second is that now I understand the amount of work involved in altering a pattern for a larger bust (the alteration that makes the most difference for me but other alterations also take a whack of time), I realise that clothing for a busty woman would be so expensive that it would not sell. This also explains why plus size clothing ranges in shops are all about draping knits which accommodate a range of body shapes. The cost of producing garments for different shapes as well as for different sizes would be too much. The arrival of plus sized clothing which is semi-formal, work-friendly, in mainstream shops like Postie Plus is fantastic in my view, but now I understand why I'm not going to find a shop with a semi-fitted cotton or linen blouse to fit me in any size, ever.

So whereas once I was mucking around making my own washing powder and using cloth nappies on my babies, now my 'homegrown' efforts centre not just on the garden, but also on making or altering clothes that are suitable for work. The op shops are full of clothes for the kids and we get a fantastic and much appreciated few bags of hand-me-downs each year for them as well as clothing presents from relatives. Although they like me to sew for them, I don't need to. My London wardrobe is nearly all worn out and the sewing machine is my ally. Those of you who sew yourselves may be ready to post, helpfully, about the patterns which are drafted for B C and D cups. Which is great. If you are a D cup or less. Contra to what the pattern companies suggest by omission, there are lots and lots and lots of women who are larger than a D cup. Larger than an E cup actually, which is the highest size this interesting website explicitly goes to. Ah yes, bras. The most expensive piece of kit the large busted woman finds herself purchasing, if indeed she can find one to fit. My sister told me about Avokado last year so I went and got a fitting and a bra when I was in Auckland and indeed it is a revelation in good quality, well fitting bras for large busted women. They have a hefty price tag, but it was bloody wonderful that they existed at all. It's not like I was getting away with cheapie bras beforehand. It's not just about spillage and pain from ill-fitting bras that meant I wasn't with the cheapies (they go nowhere near my size), but the backpain as well.

I don't think I will be making my own bras any time very soon. I would like to master dressmaking and shirtmaking (skirts are relatively easy for me to both make and to buy ready to wear) in the medium term and appreciate that although it takes some budgeting, I can actually source bras which don't hurt or spill massively. The other site I found in my weekend websurfing was Carissa Rose. The other side of the world no less, but I'm pleased to see this shop exists.

Is this because I am an extreme size, some kind of statistical aberration? Actually no, although even if I was, it would be good if I could find things to wear which allowed me to participate in formal workplaces with dignity. I have many times walked out of our local specialist lingerie store where exactly and only one bra ever fits me, and cast my eye over the women in the street. It doesn't take a measuring tape to work out that it's pretty common to have a bra cup size which exceeds a DD, and a band size which exceeds an 18. These two web pages here and here offer some interesting insight into the world of pattern and bra drafting.

Down with convolvulus

Down with convolvulus, creeping buttercup and slugs. Arise, the new garden bed: globe artichokes, New Zealand cranberry, garlic chives, thyme and oregano. Around all of this I have sown alyssum. Everything is transplanted (mostly divided up) from other parts of the garden except the NZ cranberry. I bought one of these a few years ago but made the mistake of planting it on a corner where the children were forever falling off their bikes directly onto it. So for the princessly sum of $5.95 plus a lot of weeding and digging labour, I have a lovely new garden bed. The poles and hoops are from when I first created this plot three years ago and had ideas of growing peas and beans up it. They never worked but it's more hassle to take them off than to work with them now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The house the children built

Staving off complete lunacy, we wrapped up the most essential jobs this afternoon, shut the door on the world of work despite its knocking, and headed inland. We stopped at Kotuku School, where an enlightened teacher in the 1930s helpd the (primary school) children to build their own miniature house. More details here, as once again I forgot the camera. The building, and a little museum of photographs and maps beside it, survives.

If you get the opportunity to visit Kotuku School one Sunday afternoon, Mr O'Brien will no doubt be as obliging as he was once again to us. Whereas we carried Brighid in our arms last time, this time she headed off down the paddock to feed the horses a carrot. If the historic places in your patch of countryside don't also offer carrots-to-horse feeding, then I expect you will feel bereft. You could try moving to the West Coast, especially if you like rain.

Then, for dinner, we went to the Station House Cafe which has a view of this:
Tonight was misty and didn't look so much like this crisp image which is from some website publicity for the area, but it was gorgeous nonetheless. The imminent birthday of the cook prompted all of this and it was very wonderful.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The lucky one sighs. Ineloquently and uncharitably.

Today I am reminded of the particular pressures of a society under economic stress. Favourite Handyman has been at work for more hours this week than I care to add up, including all of today (Saturday) and I will admit to much sighing as I find myself running the house and the jobs he usually does and caring for children who miss their Dad and require some empathetic distraction rather than my more usual directive that they should go outside and make their own fun.

But as we caught up with friends in the library this morning, one of whom continues to hunt for work, so far without success, I had to appreciate the security we currently enjoy in our home workwise and the pressures which are universal: time but little money or money but little time. Living on the West Coast has allowed FH and to live out our priority of having one of us mostly at home with the children; I'm glad there is so much about our life here which makes it worthwhile.

Some small achievements to remind me that life is not entirely about doing the dishes and loading the washing machine: I have finished sewing in the sleeves of the endless purple cardigan. I tried it on and Fionn kindly told me I look nice in it. He took a photo but the dark purple does not show up well and I need to try again with contrasting colours underneath to get a photo worth posting. I weeded some more of the overgrown garden. The convolvulus which I am digging and ripping out will no doubt reappear, but if I can get some strong contending plants in there, I'm hopeful they will fight and win. I am thinking of moving the globe artichokes there and perhaps some herbs for ground cover.

The children demonstrated their hill-biking strengths:

My books on sewing have arrived and I've been reading the Fit For Real People one (mostly because it is easier to read that at the breakfast table with multiple interruptions than the much more academic Culture of Sewing). Once I've finished the purple cardigan completely, then I'm hoping to get stuck into sewing the wrap dress I've been wittering on about for so long. In the meantime, I read sewing blogs and my mind boggles at the skills of women like Mary Nanna who makes repairs like these. I don't say women as a sexist exclusion of male sewists but because it is the female sewists, the women who appear to have similar claims on their time to me (home, kids, work), who inspire that feeling that maybe just maybe I could become a better sewist and make creations I am pleased to wear.

I haven't done anything creative in the kitchen for too long, though certainly I've been hanging out there making sandwiches and chopping veges and stuffing the gobs of nagging kids (oops sorry feeding my beloved children) plenty. Maybe tomorrow. There is basil in the garden ready to turn into pesto and sometime this week I hope to buy a whole fish and try Annabel Langbein's whole ginger fish recipe. Given that it is February and I am trying to pare our spending back to allow us to save for a new car (our current one continues to troop along reliably despite turning 20 this year, but it is getting quite expensive to maintain), I am looking at home made museli bar ideas. Again.

This Warriors visit news footage is from last week and one of those zippy little kids in a maroon jersey just might be my boy (looks just like him and he was there).

Friday, February 11, 2011

I am here for my father

I need to run off and be superwoman (or that's how this week feels) but before I go, check Metiria Turei's speech out:

I am here for my father

I have gone off the Greens in recent years, but this speech is the best and most moving auythentic thing I have read/heard out of parliament in a very long time. I just hope we can indeed do something to create a society with dignity for ordinary working people.

Also, for posterity, I began to tackle the most overgrown part of the garden yesterday. Holding on to the garden moments as precious amidst the rest of the busy-ness.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

green and promising

New swimming bags for two children. Brighid wasn't so interested in showing off their sewing structure, more in posing a la Christmas. But there ain't much to show off in terms of a sewn rectangle anyways.
These are lemons. Not in itself momentuous, except that they are OUR lemons! We have never been this successful on the lemon growing front before. There is a huge crop for one rather small tree. Any thoughts on whether I should cull to improve the nutrients available to a smaller number?
A few weeks ago I noticed that this kale plant had been stripped completely bare by cabbage butterfly caterpillars. But the new growth in the middle shows I was right not to give up.
Very fine specimens of tomato don't you think? I am hoping they will turn red before winter.
This is the one that got away. I had been checking the zucchini plant from the other side and completely missed this one. For weeks by the looks of this marrow.

This all looks like a serene and happy day. Parts of it were, but never be fooled by a blog. This one is written by a grumpy shouty woman who has a loving, lovely family and secure employment and everything most of the world longs for but who cannot handle the number of things her children lose at the very worst possible times.

Off to have sew up some more of the never ending purple cardigan...

Monday, February 7, 2011

button necklace

A button necklace for our girl with the cut foot. Brighid chose the buttons and I did the threading and plaiting. Yes that is grub all over her top. I considered not posting the photo for that reason and then I remembered I'm not that kind of blog. Sunny days, exquisite crafting and an immaculate house are not to be found here. We spent part of last night at A & E but she has picked up a lot this afternoon and I'm hoping the wound is glass free. The doctor/nurse didn't have any special equipment for checking for residual glass beyond what we did at home, but the volume of blood and depth of the cut meant I'm glad I did opt for a trip to A & E.

In other news, it has been raining. A lot. For days. I sewed up one sleeve of the never ending purple cardigan today. Even the sewing up seems to be taking for ever.

That's it. I'm off to bed to read Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan). I could be drafting a letter to the braodcasting standards authority about the latest police recruitment advertising campaign, and indeed I do need to do that soon. Were we all asleep when suddenly this became acceptable? So those people who were forever whinging about political correctness like it was some kind of bad unhelpful disease, particularly in our state sector, is this what they want?

Saturday, February 5, 2011


In surprise evidence that anyone in Wetville is not thinking about rugby league , I have been knitting and reading about knitting. I am sewing up the never ending purple cardigan and could be wearing it as early as this coming week. That would make it only 12 months in the making...

Given the steep learning curve I've had on fitting and altering sewing patterns, I had a wee google on the same for knitting patterns this afternoon. I found this set of tutorials: Fit to Flatter. Wow - one very clever and helpful knitter and teacher.

This morning I took Fionn down to the special kids league session with the Warriors. I took heaps of photos and every single one of them is terrible. Do let me know if you want some pictures of headless league players, or their shoulders. This afternoon Favourite Handyman took him to the big game which he loved, and I chopped onions and prepared spuds and kumara for tomorrow's hangi. I resisted all offers of wine as last night I had two and a bit glasses of wine and felt utterly awful for much of the early hours of the morning and consequently not too flash all of today.

I've not been thinking in extended blogging fashion this week as I adjust to early and busy starts to the day again. I have been reading online a bit though and have some links to share. My sister and I have been talking about sewing and shape and she mentioned wanting to sew a tailored jacket. I haven't got to the tailored jacket stage in sewing confidence but I understand where she is coming from - if you want a tailored jacket to fit well on a non-'standard' shape, it is either really big money to get someone to make or alter one, or learn to do it yourself. Sorting out my work wardrobe without a dramatic extension to my op-shop size clothing budget is my big motivator for learning new sewing techniques (y'know, beyond elastic waists and mending). Try Erica B's DIY Style for some breath-takingly excellent sewing. I especially like this Back bustle riding jacket. We don't need to worry about whether I have a need for such a stylish jacket in my lifestyle because I am light years behind her on sewing skill.

Recent posts on The Hand Mirror such as this one have been both interesting and sometimes depressing. I hope to respond to the issues raised in the linked post when my brain is processing at a better level than right now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

eleven days

I managed eleven days without a drink. Tonight's lapse was hardly an alcoholic bender, just a beer with fish and chips. This back to work and school and kindy and making lunches very early in the morning is a rude shock to our holidayed systems. Tonight, home at 5.30 after a long meeting, takeaways and beer seemed a mild response to my fatigue.

Anyway, enough whinging. Some things are fantastic. The car is going to get a warrant tomorrow. Well that is what I fondly imagine, given the amount of time and money involved in getting four new tyres, ball somethings, indicator covers or lights and door hinges lifted. None of that deals with the fact that when it rains, the seal has gone and raindrops land on the driver, but I guess that is not dangerous and I'm sure we have spent enough on this car this fortnight. When the system registers the warrant as a pass, then I can pay lots of money, almost $300 in fact, to register the car for 12 months. After that Brighid and I are going swimming. To swimming lessons no less. Taking my not even school age child to swimming lessons, I feel like I am even doing one of those super mother kinds of activities. Next it will be two different kinds of dance lessons and some French for good measure.

I'm not going to work again until Friday, as Thursdays are my day off this year. This morning I was home alone while Brighid was at kindy, the car was at the mechanic and the boys were at work or school. I cut out half of the fabric for Vogue 8379. Not sure if my scissors are blunt or if the cutting difficulties are actually me cutting the carpet loop with the fabric.

Tonight, I pinned the shoulders together of the endless purple cardigan, making it look rather like a cardigan for the first time.

Our town is all about sport at the moment. The All Blacks were supposed to come to Wetville today, only the plane couldn't land so they didn't come after all. I guess they didn't have time to take the shuttle over the hill like ordinary folks who find their flights cancelled. Then this weekend the Auckland Warriors are playing against the Knights right here at the famous Wingham Park, home of champions. My brother, who is ace at choosing amazing presents for my children, has bought us tickets to the game. They were going to be for all of us, but Brighid would go hysterical in a crowd and noise that size which wouldn't be too nice for her or those around her. So the boys will go to the league game and Brighid and I will go peel spuds with a friend in preparation for the Waitangi Day hangi on Sunday.

A book question: recommendations please for the best/most accessible Patrick White novel? I think I should read at least one of his books. Greatest Aussie novelist and all that. I haven't read nearly enough Australian fiction (or of anything really, given how much great writing is out there) but I do think Tim Winton is very good.

Garden flop: pumpkins. I had one actually germinate and begin to be a pumpkin and then it fell off the vine and ants ate it. Nothing has come of the other flowers. So I've pulled the old chook run plant out and will pull out the other one soon. I'd love to hear any suggestions on why this has happened. Also, tips for growing coriander successfully please? ?? I am sprouting red clover and black mustard on the kitchen bench at the moment. A bit of indoor sprouting is often good for my growing confidence when things go wrong in the outside 'real' garden.