Saturday, January 25, 2014


When I started blogging, Brighid was seven months old.  Now she is seven.  She loves dressups and so I made her a princess dressup dress for her birthday.  This morning (day of the party), I was working on finishing the dress when I discovered I had nowhere near the right size zip.  In a small town where shops are closed on part of Saturday and all of Sunday, I was very grateful to get there in time for an appropriate zip.

The party was a wonderful success, and after a short rest, we went to the 21st birthday party of a special young woman who has babysat for us, whose mother is my right hand woman who cares for our children when both of us are at work and who is a fabulous mother in her own right now.  All the celebration of youth and hope and joy and exuberance is so special and I'm appreciating it so much more as the flip side to the stories of struggle and decline we have been witnessing and sharing in our family in recent months.

Super Uncle has been visiting, and had the audacity to comment on the decline in posts and intellectual comment on this blog of late.  Don't you worry, there is a post just for you coming up soon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

golden days full of hobbies

The New Zealand Journal of History is online (bar the most recent two issues) and so I don't have to be a student or employee of a university to indulge my history desires.  Today I found this article:
which I found completely fascinating.

I also sent off a draft of my review of Susan Upton's book on barmaids to an historian friend.  In and around ineffective attempts to get my daughter to eat her dinner or clean her room, I removed more rubbish to the dump, booked her birthday party venue, weeded more of the garden and sewed more of my hummingbird skirt.  I now have an almost complete skirt - it just needs hemming and a button and buttonhole.  It looks quite nice, very wintry but that will come quite soon enough.  But nothing presses my finished object buttons so much as a dress.  I need some more cardigans or jackets but the fabric in my cupboard is all winking and whispering d*r*e*s*s at me.

I ordered Half of  a Yellow Sun off trademe following a respected recommendation.

Last night was craft night and it was awesome.  A room full of intelligent and wonderful women, none of them concerned about tidiness, analysing local issues and thinking beyond local politics (we fitted a bit of crafting talk in and some of the multitaskers even crafted while they conversed).  They even all bought yummy food (I forgot to do that in my anxiousness to actual vacuum the lounge) and it was gorgeousness itself.  I can report that even if you do not have a coffee table (they are terrible things which mostly result in bruises apart from when you are hosting a feast in the lounge), if you upend a laundry basket (yes! empty laundry basket!  that's an achievement as well) and cover it with a tablecloth and then put the feast on your best inherited cake stands and slice plates, and all will be both accessible and delicious and not in the least laundry-ish.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

nesting for workers

So very soon I start my new job, a job which I anticipate is going to involve 60 hour weeks with startling regularity.

Beforehand, I'm all about the kind of nesting which prepares us for the long hours of me away by making food which cannot be bought, and planting food which cannot be bought at the same quality and freshness.  Last night I made another batch of muesli and put a chicken on the slow cooker to make stock.  This morning I made eggy courgette muffins from The Edible Journey Cookbook and then strained the stock and chopped up the chicken meat.  The kids and I did errands in town and then bought punnets of silverbeet and cavolo nero seedlings.  While Brighid danced, I took bags of things we have grown out of to A, the very wonderful leader of our local Tongan community.  After our town lost a mother and teenage son in a car accident before Christmas, my eyes were opened to need I had been far too oblivious to beforehand. 

I weeded and watered and fertilised and planted before and after tea.  I started to organise Brighid's birthday party.

I did squeeze in a trip to work and did some related errands, but for the greatest part, this week still belongs to family and nesting time.  Tomorrow night is crafting time with some of my favouritist and most fabulous crafty friends in Wetville.  We'll be setting the world to rights and planning what to move and shake next.  The craft is, arguably, a political smoke screen.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

various sprouts

I tried sprouting quinoa and it didn't work.  Not a single sprout.  I figured it must have been heat treated on entry to New Zealand.  Today I bought some organic red quinoa and the second quinoa sprouting experiment is on my windowsill now.  O bought a healthy heart brassica and mustard mix for sprouting as well today.  I declined on mung beans.  There has to be a line in the sand somewhere.

Bonfires are special.  Bonfires on the beach with family from across the oceans and fireworks to boot is extra special.  We will all remember last night for a long time. 

New haircut.  I look like my Mum.  Not terrible - my Mum looks very nice.  I like the cut but wish I had been more adventurous with colour.  Brighid suggested purple, but I'm not so sold on that.  I've made the exact same comment before, so next time needs to be action time!

I tried clothes on in the sales at the flash clothes shops today.  I would have been better off spending the time sewing.  I want a tailored or semi-tailored jacket, and I'm not going to get one to fit both my shoulders and my boobs at the same time unless I make it.

I've emailed off the final draft of my chapter on goldfields women hotelkeepers and sly grog sellers.  Next stop, a book review on Susan Upton's history of barmaids in New Zealand.  The weather is wet and wetter again, so I should be able to procrastinate from sewing by writing the review, instead of the other way round.

As is normal for this time of the year, I'm thinking about colours to paint the dining room.  This has been going on for at least three years.  We want to keep the wood panelling in its original state.  This is deeply unfashionable, and even for wood panelling, the traditional accompaniment is wallpaper.  Favourite Handyman isn't into wallpaper, and when I showed him the fabulous wallpaper I found, he didn't see the fabulousness of it at all.  All this means we are making it up entirely as we go along.  I bought a deep pink test pot this afternoon - royal heath as below.  Expect another paragraph on similar lines in 12 months' time.

Resene Royal Heath We finally moved Daisy the ostracised chook onto the old sandpit tonight.  I'd only been planning this since last Easter!   Her job is to eat up all the long grass and weeds and get it into a state where it can be rebuilt - probably into a second large chook run which can double as a greenhouse.  Yesterday Favourite Handyman dug trenches and put punga logs and driftwood around the old chook run garden to make it into a raised bed. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Comfrey fertiliser for rainforest conditions

Comfrey fertiliser for rainforest conditions: Step one: pick comfrey from front garden, where I foolishly planted this wonder plant at the height of my hippiedom.  I'd rather have flowers there now, but comfrey never leaves.

Step two: rinse and cut central stalk out.  Even at the leaf end, the central rib is too tough for the food processor.  Chop into halves or thirds.
 Step three: whizz in the food processor.  Add a little water if the leaves do not behave.

 Step four: you now have a bowl of chopped comfrey.  Don't make it into liquid fertiliser if, like me, you live in an area currently under deluges of rain almost every day.
 Step five: sprinkle chopped comfrey around the kale plants.  With enough love, including the killing of white butterfly caterpillars, this will grow into a fine forest of kale and feed us all winter. Yesterday I sprinkled quash pellets around the edge of the garden as half of the six lettuces I planted round the kale had succumbed to the ravaging snails.

I've been sewing.  I sewed together some overlay ribbon rose fabric I fell in love with at a remnant table years ago and some cheap drill from the sale table at Fabric Vision and am making a hummingbird skirt (Cake Patterns) with it.  Tonight I mostly unpicked the mistakes I made last night and now have the pockets in the right place.  I've finished the front now, and holding it up to me, it may be a snug fit.  But I checked my measurements and I should be on track.  No need to to fret just yet.
We have relatives from the US visiting Wetville at the moment and they very kindly agreed to bring over some fabric I had shipped from to their place.  It's in the tumble drier as I type.  Really nice and quite exciting.  Photos later in the week. I could happily sew for weeks more.  Especially if the skirt above turns out.  I've been reading posts about wardrobe planning and sewing with a purpose.  It's definitely what I am trying to do.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014: the sewing and gradening begins

Above and below: Cake espresso leggings: successful.  I've a second pair awaiting elastic and plans to make more.  I like wearing dresses more than trousers for work and I don't like faffing round with pantyhose (nor does the work dress code require them), so leggings are perfect for winter.  Usually I can only buy plain black from the cheap shop and they pull apart at the thighs long before any other part has worn out.  I'm looking forward to a longer life from these made to measure leggings.  For details of the pattern and why the customisation makes it brilliant, see here.  In case you are concerned, I don't plan on wearing the leggings as trousers - but the photo does allow you to see the leggings in some of their glory.

Less successful: McCalls 6408.  Very comfortable.  Like a tent at the back, so I put elastic in all the way round which would have been quite good except I didn't put in straight (I was under the illusion it was straight all the way until it was too late).  I also managed to have mismatched seams and wonkiness in several places, and my excited attempt at using the overlocking stitch on my ~30 year old machine resulted in an unplanned-for frilliness to the hem.  Destined for a round home jacket only.  The style is very loose.  This is a medium straight out of the packet (except I put the sleeves and side seams in with a narrower seam allowance to give a little more bicep and bust room), and the shoulders are too wide (as indicated in the pattern picture, to be fair).  My measurements would have me in the XL size if I hadn't read the size issue in many Pattern Review reviews of this jacket.
I'm now hankering for a jacket with shoulders that fit me.  This is something I only have a chance of getting if I make it myself, and indeed the tailoring involved would be a big step up in my sewing skills. 
 I buried pumpkin scraps with the bokashi.  Now I have a forest.
 In place of the soldier poppies, spinach for autumn/winter eating.
 This is the view from where we buy our local raw milk.  The view beyond the trees is the ocean.  One of my favourite vistas in Wetville.
 Some of the garlic harvest.  I've a few problems with rot/disease this year, so won't be able to store all the heads.

 Marjoram, sage and feverfew.  I love the colours.
The punga raised bed, newly dug of its garlic crop and weeded, and now ready to produce a kale forest for winter.  The big challenge is to beat the white butterflies.