Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Slow cooking in seven minutes

Once upon a time I was really very interested in the slow movement. Slow food, sustainable practises to look after the earth, smelling the roses, child-led home learning, walking instead of driving, cloth nappies and food cooked from scratch. I stopped short of a few fascinating innovations like hayboxes, but I was all for it. As I dug up lawn to turn it into vege garden, washed cloth nappies and tried out home made cleaners, I assumed that I (and my household) was moving in a forward, progressive, somewhat linear fashion towards a slower and greener life.

But in the midst of these things I enjoyed pursuing, I liked my job. The one I had before Fionn and in between Fionn and Brighid. The one I chose to go back to very part time when Brighid was a year old and the one I am doing more of this year. The one I still like.

Which has something to do with the shift in the way we live. Today's finest achievement:

2.35pm: leave work and head to supermarket. See free range chicken products (whole chickens, breasts, drumsticks) on special and pile a few meals' worth in the trolley. Peruse the packet ready meals and find I still can't bring myself to buy them or at least see one that fits my time frame for today. Grab kumara and other items and collect money via eftpos to pay for the children's school stationery order.

2.45pm: arrive home. Turn oven on 150 celsius, oil a casserole dish and pile two bags of chicken drumsticks in it. Peel and slice a large kumara and a large onion and add to pot. Open cupboard and look around for spices. Any spices, though maybe not the sweetish mixed spice. Find unopened jar of red thai curry paste and add to pot with a can of coconut cream. Put lid on a put in oven.

2.52pm: grab stationery order and money and walk to school. Arrive to collect tired but happy daughter and tired but unhappy son (try eating your sandwiches at lunchtime my darling child) and pay for stationery.

3.14pm: Back home. Feed children and watch them magically perk up. Listen to school stories while I add some cornflour and water mix to the casserole.

3.25pm: Drop children with Robyn our beloved childminder.

3.30pm: At work for meeting.

4.45pm: Collect husband.

4.55pm: Collect children. Delays there for work related discussions.

5.25pm: Home. Dinner on table within five minutes, with chopped cucumber, red pepper and cherry tomatoes replacing earlier plans for cooked greens due to time constraints.

Verdict: It's a winner, a seven minute wonder worth repeating. I might go back and buy the rest of the chicken drumsticks tomorrow. Once upon a time I swore off supermarket chicken, repulsed by its mass produced and unlovely origins in industrial barns. Once upon a time was a long time ago.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hello garden

I've spent more evening time at my sewing machine than in my garden this summer. Now that I've finished my sewing goals for the moment and it is still balmy of an evening, I'm back outside.

I had to admit in the weekend that the summer has been gorgeous and the soil neglected and now it is very dry. Tonight I did lots of watering, some weeding, fed the compost, pruned the herb garden and planted some cavolo nero kale. Two months ago I sowed bergamot, white sage and evening primrose seeds. The problem with sowing seeds of plants I am not familiar with, is trying to sort the weeds from the intentional seedlings. Direct sowing isn't always the easiest method. I have several plants growing which I thought might be bergamot, but as it has belatedly occurred to me to check by bruising and smelling a leaf tonight, I can report that I've merely let some slightly uncommon weeds flourish.

Brighid had a fabulous first day at school.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

carrot harvest

Carrot harvest. I also harvested the rest of the garlic and some of the beetroot. I weeded the chook grave garden and replanted it with geraniums and kale.
I took this photo last night. It is a carrot plant gone to seed in its first season, which carrots are not supposed to do. It happened to several plants, rendering those carrots very tough and inedible. All of the seeding plants were the white belgian variety, which I have read is well suited to winter growing. Maybe I would have more success if I planted the white belgian seed in autumn.

Tomorrow is all go, Brighid's first day at school. She is very excited and I am really pleased that we have time release from work to both take her on her first day.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quelling nervousness & the finished cardy

The blue cardigan is done. Notice how in the photograph the light is bad, the cardigan looks green and the background appears to be a slovenly mess of unmade bed? The only part which is an illusion is that the cardigan is blue in real life. I read and adore some truly gorgeous blogs where people wait days and even weeks to get good light and someone to take good photographs of them modelling their creations. This is not a gorgeous blog; it is the blog of impatient woman who is learning to sew.

Anyways, I am quite pleased with the cardigan. There is a little bit of puckering but I figure it is only by sewing more that I will get any better at that bit. I actually still sew quite wonky seams and I may never ever sew contrasting thread topstitching. But a little wonky puckeringness is way better than cardies which stop half way over my bosom, which is the only kind shops sell. I do like how the sleeves aren't too long as well.

Will I make it again? Maybe. Possibly in a slightly heavier weight fabric. The merino is lovely and soft and light to wear but it remains to be seen how durable it is as an outerwear garment.

So I've finished all sewing up all my Global Fabrics Christmas fabric. I made one cardigan, one t-shirt and two skirts for myself this month, plus two five year old skirts. I have never ever been so productive behind a sewing machine in my life. In two days I start multitasking in a much higher gear and I'm working through some nervousness about that. My lovely family did some cleaning today without me even asking and I spent a wee bit of time in the garden, all good things for my soul. I made chocolate blueberry brownie cake in readiness for school lunch box filling and went to work for a while.

I'm wondering what I shall sew next. What I really like most is dresses, but I don't want to buy more fabric right now. I have some felted wool (some intentionally felted and some accidentally) which I imagine myself turning into a skirt at some point, but I haven't found a pattern to modify to make it. Actually dresses is what I really like the most. Skirts are practical things which I wear enough (trousers not much at all outside of the house - not because I hate myself in trousers, I just don't love trousers much) but they don't have a slightly magical quality of appeal like dresses do for me. I like how dresses don't require much in the way of coordination. Perhaps it is time next to dye the pink jacket from last week's op shop bargain day. Maybe the flowery curtain Crepe dress.... I need to make up some more fabric from my cupboard before I deem myself eligible to buy knit fabric for one of the Vogue dresses in my last post.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

For whom the alarm rings

The world of paid work is not just knocking gently. Tomorrow it will be an alarm clock going off loudly. It has been a great summer with much to love and cherish. Brighid had her actual fifth birthday earlier this week which was a furling whirling lovely day of visitors and visiting. Tonight I remembered to go to the supermarket and buy food for school lunches. Mostly, I've been fitting in sewing my blue cardigan, as though it represents organisation itself. If I can have it finished for Monday (no chance for tomorrow), the Global Fabrics sewing project will be complete. It seems almost talismanic, as if completing the sewing will confer order on my world, despite the rational element in my brain noting that time spent sewing is time ignoring everything else which needs doing. A few days ago it looked like this:
A cardigan which reaches to the centre front is a rare and wonderful thing for me. It may still be a smidgen small but that is because I altered to measurements taken before a summer of wine, barbeques and general indulgence. A bit of running around multitasking and possibly the green prescription gym class may see things return to a slightly slimmer version.

As for the second photo, I had to unpick the band and scratch my head a lot and then repin it differently. Now it is much much less puckered. There is nowhere in the house to take a current photo without waking someone or somebodies up tonight. Then again, as for this second photo, you don't see a room like this on the sewing blogs too often do you?

I look at my sewing and think back to my first finished dress (which went into the bin - not even good enough for the Sallies) and I think that the best way I am learning is by carrying on sewing and then carrying on again. I'm getting better at using my machine and working around the limitations of its age and era. The garden has taken something of a back seat to the sewing projects, but not completely. Votes for a dress sewing project please? Both of these dresses have been very popular on Pattern Review (possibly the most useful resource for sewing I have stumbled across)

Pros: I already own Vogue 8379. I have cut the pattern pieces out and attempted an extended bodice as a sop to the FBA situation. [I never sewed it up as the cheapie fabric I chose was so awful I couldn't bear to use it as a muslin after I whipped up a skirt (gone to the Sallies without a single wear) in the same fabric. With my slightly more practised knowledge about bust adjustments and getting wrap dresses to sit flat and not gape, I will have to change the alterations quite a bit.]

Cons: I will probably need 3.5 metres for it, which makes for pricey fabric.

Pros: It is gorgeous. I've seen photos of it on a range of figures and I think it could work. It only uses 2 metres.

Cons: I need to buy the pattern which is $NZ33. It is a summer dress and summer is, sadly, not long for my world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

People of the Book

Geraldine Brooks' The People of the Book is my best read of this year. Possibly last year also. This morning the children got to make themselves ice creams in cones and drink powerade and help themselves to chocolate all so I could concentrate on reading People of the Book. Eventually, with some regret, I finished it, and re-entered my usual world. It is both a marvellous and absorbing read and also for me a constant reminder of the relentless persecution of Jewish people over many many centuries. Next beside my bed is a Linda Grant novel.

Sewing. The pattern alterations aspect has gone fairly well, but matching the band on the cardigan to the altered fronts has involved a lot of pinning and repinning and a lot of unpicking. I've left it for the evening and altered my 50 cent op shop slip instead. Now it fits perfectly to go under yesterday's $15 teal dress and today's $15 black dress. Postie Plus has a store here in Wetville and sure enough, they had the same design as in yesterday's blogpost but in my size in black.

Tomorrow Brighid turns five and her grandparents visit for the day. The house provides ample evidence of my flagrant flouting of all that my mother taught me about respectability, tidiness, sobriety, moderation, many other virtuous things, and being good. Perhaps magic fairy dust will settle on me in the night and I will wake before dawn and perform housekeeping miracles.

This afternoon was all about the infirm. We did some visiting at the hospital. Our second hospital visit was to our eight year old friend Miss E who had her appendix removed last night. Turns out the nurse is funny (the make you laugh kind of funny) and you get a tv in your room these days. They never had funny nurses in my childhood romps around Nelson hospital wards. Then we went to see Mary K who has been approved for permanent residential care starting next week. I am so pleased and she is excited about it too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shopping in Hoki

This making clothes fit lark requires some brain power, endless thinking and consultation of Palmer and Pletsch's Fit for Real People. Then lots of practising. I'm part way through all that and have far to go. Below is the full bust adjustment I did for the top in New Look 6735. I feel like I learnt a lot just making this adjustment, but there are still a lot of pulls in the fabric when I wear it. This time I am making the knit cardigan from the same pattern, which has a similar shape, so I thought I would try a new FBA method. Although FFRP advise that for alterations of more than 1.5 inches per side, a "Y" bust dart alteration is the best method, that seemed too hard at the time.

Now it seems I have the requisite bravery (and the knowledge that I bought the fabric and if I don't sew it up, then I have wasted quite a bit of cash on the merino). Here is the cardigan front with the "Y' bust dart alteration. I'm part way through sewing the cardigan - no try-ons or photos yet.
Today bargain shopping day. Bargain shopping days cannot be planned, they can only be fortuitous accidents. It is also true that the chance of a fortuitous accident goes up if the shopping involves the St Vincent de Paul shop in Hokitika. Below is my new tailored jacket which cost me the princely sum of $4. Casting my eye over it at home with my newly acquired fitting knowledge, I can see that the sleeves need taking up and if I can find a way of shifting the front closure (currently a button) down, I might lose the maternity silhouette (a bit anyway, a fat tummy still has to fit under there somewhere). Last time I had a great op shop jacket find, I paid the Bernina ladies to adjust the sleeves, but for goodness sake, it is four dollars of jacket! Time for me to have a go myself. I'm not sure I can do anything about the gaping at the lapel and I may yet dye it a different colour. It is very very pink and liable to look grubby within seconds of wearing it at the moment.Bargain #2: a knit dress from Postie Plus for $15. It has a soft collar and pleats on the front with buttons to hold the pleats. The colour is a bit Air New Zealand teal, but I do like the dress The lace at the bottom isn't part of the dress. The slip underneath (an older op shop find) needs shortening. Without a slip, this dress will cling to big lumps a little too much.
It does seem like I've gravitated towards some rather matronly items, by my own choice. I'm not there on analysing that, but it is true that we are talking about work clothes here and work clothes on a budget. Plus I don't want to wear a floaty tunic.

Friday, January 20, 2012

So the day does not disappear into complete oblivion

I laybyed the boots. If the recession hits and peak oil all at once and I have to walk to work and make my boots last for many years, then I will need these boots.

I chopped a lot of wood and dragged the scrappy stuff to make a big heap on the old sandpit. Just chopping with the loppers. Me and a chainsaw isn't quite the best idea.

I helped my elderly cousin. All fingers crossed that we get a good outcome from the meeting with her carelink worker (like an old person's social worker it seems). Mary K had been home less than 24 hours and she was in a such a confused and distressed state when I visited. It is cruel to expect her to carry on at home.

We farewelled our lovely friends who are about to start a new life in Blenheim. Can't wait to visit them there. I feel so lucky that we will see them again. Not such a big and difficult scale as when we farewelled friends in the UK.

FH finished the roof. We went to friends for a barbeque and had a marvellous time. No dishes. I like no dishes almost as much as I like friends. I did make basil pesto and beetroot salad to take round. My latest food assessment is that the best basil pesto has a little coriander thrown in for good measure.

The chimney sweep came. The wood delivery man came. Now it remains only for me to stack that wood.

I vacuumed the dining room. There is no bureacratic evidence of when it was last vaccumed. But the archaeological evidence (the state of the vacuum cleaner afterwards) is that it was a long time ago.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Irresponsible thinking of unimportant things

One skirt finished. One pair of new boots in the shop spied and now coveted. I'm going to take a dress and some socks down tomorrow to check they are as high as I want them. Then we can talk layby. It doesn't seem so chillingly selfish to take bits of food money out each fortnight compared to not feeding anyone for a week so I can have new boots.

Absolutely, there are more important things to be doing than thinking about clothes and boots and sewing. World peace, global warming, the state of the dining room floor, finding some magical way of being at work and looking after small children at the same time, reading Geraldine Brooks, the Ports of Auckland industrial war and what it means for trade unions everywhere in New Zealand, weeding the garden, the Euro...

What I'm thinking about next is how to alter the pattern for New Look 6735. This time I am going to make the cardigan. I made a FBA for the top a long time ago so I can repeat that, but now I've been wearing my latest version of the 6735 long sleeved t shirt, I can see that there are more adjustments to make. Not necessarily what they are, but that those ripples and bits that ride up indicate something out of skew. I suspect sway back and sloping left shoulder, but there is something else I cannot explain. My best current guess is that I need to drop the bust gathers down to allow for my ageing and post-babies shape.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

and the reward for the day was red wine...

Seven children, two men with a chainsaw on a scaffold, an old lady kicked out of the old people's home a day early and a crazily messy house. I'm prepared to say that a) the kids were GREAT and b) the men did an excellent job decapitating the big tree in the back yard. I spent a bit of time on the phone to the old people's home and sorted out that crisis. I planted some celery and lettuce (the old fashioned crunchy kind because frankly it tastes better than the swanky kind in the upmarket section of the supermarket, all red and crinkly). Most of the children went home before sundown.

I made some progress on the overgrown globe artichoke patch. When I made this garden four years ago, I imagined peas and beans twining themselves up the arches. Now, even in its overgrown state, it seems that not even the convulvulus wants to twine itself up the arches I carefully placed. But there are some lovely calla lillies in the wilderness and I aim to rescue them from visual oblivion and add some geraniums to the red theme as I go ministering.

Highlight of the day (apart from the people, whom I do love dearly): the neighbour brought us over some frozen crayfish. Delicious.

Also, the remains of the tree provide rich imaginative fodder. I show you only my daughter and not her also vividly imaginative friend, because putting other people's children on the internet without permission is rude and I try not to be rude. They enacted all kinds of wacky scenes but the one which stays in my head is where Brighid continues her project of making sense of Nana Pam's death and tells her friend "and I even got invited to her funeral!" They had a conversation afterwards about how Nana Pam died and couldn't come to any decent answers. What I could tell my daughter the other day when she had a minor vomiting bug was that she wouldn't die like Nana Pam after this bug, which is what she feared.

Reading I recommend: Chris Trotter's open letter to David Shearer about the Port of Auckland dispute (thank you Bryce Edwards for the link)

and Zoe's interview on Exciting sustainable fashion research.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

parties and Pike

Today was Brighid's party. Thanks to a very helpful husband, lovely friends and lovely children, we all had a great time. I'd also give credit to my streamlining of the party process. Home made cake and everything else bought. Only cooking at the event is the barbequed sausages and FH took care of that. Chips from the fish and chip shop for the actual lunch part. Otherwise chips (crisps), animal biscuits, juice and fizzy. My one concession to my usual nutritional concerns is there is no raspberry fizzy, no fanta and no cola. The giant bouncy pillow and the go karts were pretty fabulous. Of course I didn't do anything taxing like have it at home. Imagine the cleaning involved, not to mention the scaffolding - how many small children dancing on a roof is wise exactly? We went down to the nearby holiday park and hired their facilities for a very reasonable sum and almost no cleaning up involved.

The roof painting continues, with just a few hours off for partying. I did some weeding and began to plan the winter garden as I dug. As per the usual January preparations for winter, I've been organising for a wood delivery just as soon as the scaffolding is out of the way.

I've done a bit more on my winter version of Simplicity 2451. I'm getting less scared of putting zips in and more proficient at creating a working closure. This is what it looks like so far.
I need to put the yoke facing on and then hem it and then it is done. While it will work fine with a black top, I would like to pick out the forest green in it and make another version of New Look 6735 to go with it. Ha ha ha. Not very manageable at the moment given the limited stock in our local fabric shop, but maybe Dunedin's Global Fabrics would send me some samples if I rang them and asked very nicely. I would like some of that heavy weight cotton/spandex or even polyester/spandex which they make the more expensive ready to wear t-shirts from - the kind which keep their shape over time.

There is another fifth birthday party in four days' time. Right now I see a trip to a shop to buy something readymade rather than time on the sewing machine in my future. Perhaps by Friday I will be back in the kiddie sewing mode.

I've still got some lovely blue merino fabric from Global Fabrics in Auckland. Originally I saw it in McCalls 6408, but I've since read more reviews and the wide arms won't be practical for work and the fabric may be droopy rather than drapey. So that may turn another top or tops and I will have to keep thinking about a winter cardigan type garment. I spent over a year knitting a cardigan which I'm now not especially fond of. Sewing is appealing more for its faster turn around from idea to finished garment.

That's it. No insightful political comment or inspiring creations or luminous prose. Just another diary entry in an internet-lined world. I really like how free blogging allows me to sometimes merely retell the events of my little world over days or weeks and other times to connect in a more considered and reflective way to the ideas and arguments elsewhere in my town and the wider world.

While the news media moves on (and in some ways, thank goodness), 29 men still lie under our mountain at Pike River. The people we usually buy our wood and coal from, the very talented Stephen and Carol Rose, lost their son in the Pike disaster. At the end of this month they will close up their wood business and after a month's holiday they will return to Wetville to concentrate their energies entirely on getting the bodies out of the mountain. I support the work which the families of the Pike River 29 group are doing. The recent news that it may be years before they are out needs to be challenged. Everyone has a right to go to work and to come home again at the end of their shift.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nigella's failsafe cake fails

Nigella Lawson's "Failsafe Chocolate Cake" wasn't entirely safe from failing in my hands. The children and I have opted to return to our trusted Danish chocolate brownie recipe for the actual birthday party cake on Tuesday. As you can see from the photo, the result was almost obscene.

After making a chocolate cake flop this afternoon, we went swimming, taking Brighid for her first ever go on the hydroslide, and then on to the park to have fish and chips and play on the playground with our friends. I gave the girls their matching blue twirling skirts which they expressed great enthusiasm for.

The weather has gone cold and wet again which effectively stopped me from beginning a fanciful summer dress out of curtains and redirected me to making a winter skirt from the same Simplicity 2451 pattern which I made last week and have decided I like. I need to buy a zip for it tomorrow and it should be finished and ready for photographing, in a couple of days, or a bit more due to crazy fifth birthday partying. The fabric comes from my mother in law's stash which I suspect in turn was her mother's and is a needlecord fabric with parrots on it. I remember wearing pinafores from similar fabric when I was about seven, but so far it is working as a slightly retro woman's skirt.

Brighid has just received another birthday party invitation, so another twirly skirt is on the horizon. This time I will use the tiered skirt rather than the circle skirt option on Simplicity 2356 so I can use up scraps of fabric from several finished projects.

The weather has been too wet to garden and I have been sewing rather than reading. Not quite two weeks until work life begins again in earnest. I've been doing a bit of prep for that but mostly really appreciating the wonderful free time the four of us have together right now.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Broken Heartbreakers

It's been a wonderful week, half of it childless. Mum and Dad love having them, they love going to Hanmer and spending time with their grandparents and we love sleeping in in the morning and going out at night without arranging a babysitter. Lucky and blissful indeed.

On Wednesday night we went to see the Barley Shakers which was a lovely evening out. They were a family band playing Irish music, mostly classic tunes with one lovely original song at the end.

Last night was superb. We went to hear the Broken Heartbreakers and Bond Street Bridge. They were wonderful and we've been listening to the CDs we bought from them all of today. I loved the layers of skill in their musicianship and the political aspect to some of their songs (go the folk ballad about the IMF and Ireland) and I'll be lining up for more as soon as I hear they are back in Greymouth.

These are the gladioli which were supposed to be a lime green "Bells of Ireland" type colour. Hmmmm. Still, they are quite pretty. The pink ones start out a salmon colour which I'm not fond of, but then they deepen into something quite beautiful.

Here are the matching dancing skirts for two special girls just turned or about to run five. The one above with the berry strips around it is for Brighid and the one below with the green trim strips is for her best friend Rebecca who leaves town for a new life in Blenheim in just one week's time. We will all miss you Rebecca.I'm about to enter these two skirts in the Pattern Review stash contest, the first sewing contest I've ever entered. Anything which encourages freeing up space at the bottom of the linen cupboard is a good idea. I had planned to make a Colette Crepe dress out of curtain fabric next, but the cool, wet and blustery weather has got me in mind to make another Simplicity 2451 skirt for winter instead, using some of the fabric I brought back from my Mother in law's stash.

Enough sewing though. I read Adrienne Martini's book Sweater Quest which was quite good holiday reading and good for showing up the ways in which internet collaboration has enriched the lives and practise of knitters across the world (something which is also applicable to other crafts including sewing). Now I'm onto Geraldine Brookes' People of the Book which is fabulous so far.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The pursuit of fabulous books, a transformed roof and clothes that fit

Ah the joys of second hand books. Last night I finished Andrea Levy's Fruit of the Lemon. I liked it. The protagonist initially denies any interest in Jamaica, living as a modern young woman in London, but then has something of a breakdown and her parents send her to Jamaica for a holiday. Good and classic (if by now standard) Levy stuff. Small Island is still her best novel. Next stop, the library. It is holiday time after all. I chose Still Here by Linda Grant (whose entire collection I may also work my way through after loving The Clothes on their Backs. I may have to request that the Wetville library purchase her The Thoughtful Dresser.

Another Geraldine Brooks, this time People of the Book. Then I found one I'd read about and looked for last year, Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini. I'm currently uninterested in knitting, but maybe this will fire me up.

Here are the photos which I couldn't persuade blogger to uplaod for me last night. Tonight it cooperated so long as I loaded each one individually. My new skirt above and top below. I've been scooting round fatshionista type blogs and net articles lately and challenging some of my own assumptions about normal shape. My first reaction to both garments off me is they look rather odd. 'No, Sandra, they look the shape which fits you.... Which is a perfectly functional shape which only appears odd because it is invisible in mainstream fashion media' So I put the photos up there as my teeny tiny contribution to making visible a wider range of pictures of clothing. Maybe sometime there will even be one of me wearing the clothes. We've just downloaded Fionn's pictures from the camera my parents gave him for Christmas and he has a natural and very good eye for taking photos.

Brighid's photo of the chooks. In case I haven't posted enough pics of our egg force over the years.Child labour. Fionn has been an awesome assistant on the roof project. Today we hired a waterblaster and booked the scaffolding for another week.

Bestest of all fun: the kids and I went to see the movie The Muppets today. If you were born in the 1970s, go see. The kids liked it as well, but don't be deterred if you don't have kids to take with you.

Although my eye wanders from the garden a bit these days, some time and love still goes in, and we were repaid tonight with our first meal of green beans from the garden. Last night I harvested some garlic but it could do with another fortnight to get to a better size. I think it went in lateish as well.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

painting & sewing

Today I made an entire knit top. In one day. I only had one major unpicking job. I also finished my new skirt. Which makes nothing less than an ensemble of a matching top and skirt. It even appears they will match other separates in my wardrobe. How sensible. Though I am pleased with my actual sewing progress and the individual garments, I'm left rather deflated by this sensible-ness (yes I know there is a proper word called 'sensibility' but it doesn't fit the context). I've pulled out the curtain fabric, the one with the huge flowers on it which are like the ones in my grandparents' bedroom 30 years ago only perhaps a larger print, and I'm gearing up to make another Colette crepe dress with it. I doubt 'sensible but modern librarian style' is going to apply to that when it is finished. Strange and old fashioned maybe, but not 'sensible'.

The roof painting continues. Actually, the wind was too vigorous to safely do anything on the roof this afternoon, but this morning Favourite Handyman primed the north facing side of the house. We may have someone coming to help this week - paying for painting assistance is starting to look like a wonderful idea when the scaffolding costs for each day of hire and the weather forecast knocks some of this week out for painting already.

I attempted to load some photos of the top, skirt and the roof work, but blogger isn't interested in pithy requests like loading photographs tonight.Link

Friday, January 6, 2012


In which the sun mostly shines, so often I am even watering the garden, and I haven't had to make a school lunch for weeks. It's definitely a happy life.
Leeks taste quite good, but left alone, they are beautiful gone to seed. Behind the seed head, that is not fancy solar panels on the house roof. Rather, it is where the finish on the coloursteel roof has worn off. Which is why tonight Favourite Handyman and Fionn assembled this:
In honour of all this roof painting and window painting and the general observation that FH is working very hard, I made myself clean and tidy quite a bit of the house today. I also played nurse to Brighid who has a minor lurgy and planted more basil and made some pesto. This year's basil harvest is my best yet, possibly making up for the dismal state of the tomatoes. I know the diy gurus all seem to freeze basil for the rest of the year, but I find it too yummy to have any left to save.

Yesterday I started making a skirt:
I thought it would be magnificent but currently I'm less convinced by the reality of how the pattern is turning out. It may be that I just need to get my head around my actual size rather than assuming a pretty skirt can render my tummy invisible.

I do love my cosmos flowers a lot. The green leaves to the front right are bean plants. They taste good raw but I don't have enough ripe for a family meal yet. In the right background are gladioli almost ready to flower.

At the same time as loving all this time with all of us at home together, I am starting to get organised for a year ahead in which I double my paid working hours compared to last year. I think that on balance it is a good decision, but I'm a little nervous about the family-work balance. It is the first year in the last nine since I became a parent that I'll be working five days per week, meaning I won't have a day to keep an exhausted or asthmatic child home to rest or help Mary K for the day and it will be harder for me to go on the children's school trips. Still, I remind myself that it is all about one foot in front of the other, knowing that I have a supportive workplace and also my wonderful child carers Robyn and Sharon who the children love.

After the success of the Christmas shortbread, I think I will make a big batch of that for the freezer for school lunches. After four years of frozen muffins and banana cake, it's time for change. Last year when I was recovering from surgery, my lovely friend Nina popped round with a container of bolognaise sauce from her freezer, a bag of pasta and a pack of parmesan cheese. She was really busy herself, but her awesome pre-cooking organisation (and generosity) meant she could still gift us something nutritious that required little cooking. With lots of veges and tomatoes, I reckon I could make up six meals of bolognaise sauce from two kilos of mince.

Also on the freezer project, maybe polenta, especially now Fionn likes it as well. Really garlicky polenta this time. As always, I'll fill the rest of our little freezer with Blackball sausages. I don't care what the food purists have to say about sausages, they keep faces smiling and bellies satiated here and I can't imagine giving them up unless we give up meat altogether.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

a little summer research

Polenta is good (thanks Rachael and Christopher). I have added making it more frequently to my loose aggregation of 2012 goals. I made a fry up with it this morning with some slabs of ham, a large tomato, chopped spinach and celery and a slab of polenta. It was good. I've no idea what the family rating is as I only made it for me.

I am the official secretary for the painting the roof project. I proffer my opinions on paint colour charts, compare prices of painting poles and roof rollers and line up the booking for the scaffolding. I have also taken on another home maintenance research project - learning about home ventilation systems. It's a topic mired in slick sales pitches and alleged dodginess on the part of other companies. I may post about that more when I have read more widely.

I also spent a chunk of today sorting out my haberdashery. It turns out I had quite a bit before - much of it tangled and confused - and now I have a lot more as I have sorted the bounty from Favourite Handyman's mum and nana. I bought some containers supposedly for microwaving dinners to store my now rather extensive collection of thread and some plastic bags to collate and store bias binding, ribbon, elastic etc. I declined to sort out the wool side of the chaos space and celebrated sewing space progress by mending FH's trousers. Not something I imagined myself doing once upon a time, but as I'm not going near the actual painting of the windows and roof, I've decided to be unafraid of a little mending as a household contribution.

No gardening, apart from buying more celery seedlings. I did fit in some wine drinking though.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reunited with my cosmos

Back. Auckland was fabulous. Highlights include a trip to Howick Historical Village to see, amongst other exhibits, the cottage which Fionn and Brighid's great great great grandparents lived in when they came out to New Zealand in the 1840s as a fencible family. Also three nights in Ponsonby where Brighid and I went for a walk one night and ended up sitting on a verandah watching a talented Samoan band perform on the front lawn. Another night of course was a walk down Franklin Road the see the Christmas lights. We interred my Mother in Law's ashes and that was a beautiful ceremony and has helped me appreciate another side to cremation. I found it way too brutal when she was simply driven away from the church, but now I feel quite a lot of peace about her. We spent Fionn's ninth birthday at the Auckland museum with some short cousins. Favourite Handyman and I spent some time in his father's garden weeding, chopping and mulching.

It is wonderful to be back home. I spent part of today fixing up my languid drunken tomatoes which should have been tied up before we left. The garden is crying out for help and I'm balancing it with reading, my other holiday love.

I bought Margaret Forster's Hidden Lives: A Family Memoir (published 1995) in a little secondhand bookshop in St Kevin's Arcade on K Road. We were in secondhand bookshop heaven a few times on holiday. Last night I started to read it about 10pm and, with a few hours of sleep in between, did not get up until I had finished it this morning. Forster tells the story of her grandmother, her mother and her life up until her mother's death. She explores the changing opportunities for working class women in England over that period (c. 1873-1981) in terms of combining marriage and family life with intellectual fulfillment and reflects on the potent mix of love, frustration and envy which characterised her relationship with her own mother. I found it absorbing and interesting. Hers is a world in which multiculturalism does not feature, possibly the defining preoccupation of my favourite authors who are of my own generation. There was however much in her writing that I felt walked familiar territory to my own journey and that which didn't was the most interesting. I'm now on the lookout for more of her books, especially her second memoir, Precious Lives.

I took some early Christmas money, a discount voucher and some patterns to Global Fabrics. I came back with three lots of fabric and then my father in law asked me to go through several boxes of sewing related items. I now have some doilies to repurpose, about ten metres of fabric, some beautiful honiton lace and plenty of ribbons and thread to flounce up many a little girl's dress. I am indeed a lucky woman. I also brought back some 100% cotton yarn, making it slightly possible that one day I will make some knitted facecloths and dish cloths.

I have one New Year's resolution. All those jars of legumes and polenta which I feel virtuous when I buy them and almost never cook with? I'm going to cook them up and feed them to our chooks. When I'm done with that, I'm going to order lots of the only dried legume I use regularly - chickpeas - from Ko Minaya Wholefoods, a real live organics shop on the West Coast, and cook it up and then make lots of hummous and freeze it. I may even make zillions of ham sandwiches (huge hams on the bone in the post Christmas specials bin) and freeze them in preparation for when our next and busier life begins in February. That will be quite enough resolutions thank you. I certainly won't be giving up wine or turning into a housecleaning wizard.
Takapuna Beach, looking out at Rangitoto, after a morning at the pantomine.

With Santa up high at Sky City.

Christmas lights on Franklin Road.

My windswept garden on arriving home. Cosmos in the front and leeks gone to seed in the back.

A crochet side board cloth before I started the soak and transform process. Not all of the coffee stains have come out, but a lot has. There are some holes and tears in this cloth, making it perfect for experimenting with cutting it up and dyeing it. This comes from my children's great grandmother and possibly her mother before that.