Friday, January 28, 2011

Horsing around

Look what I've been up too.
I had my first riding lesson today. I rode Sam. He felt absolutely enormous and the ground looked a long way away.
Once I got the hang of walking and sitting correctly it was time for a trot.
I haven't done anything as scary in ages. I felt like Sam was going to bounce me right off. I hung on tight and didn't have to steer because I was on the lunge rein.
My favourite thing was walking around practising my steering and stopping using my legs and backside as well as my hands.

I did great for my first ride in about 20 years (is it that long??!!). Sam was a very good boy but was very pleased to be allowed to go back to his paddock because all of the other horses had their tea while he had to go for a ride instead. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to trot without terror (and don't mention cantering) but I'm having another lesson next week.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mustn't grizzle

We're both getting a bit sad cause the holidays are coming to an end. But since we've had such a wonderful time we mustn't grizzle. No photos today. Just a few words. Today I spent a considerable amount of time getting the tomato forest under control. I discovered quite a collection of tomatoes in various shapes lurking among the rampant foliage. The plants look a little like shorn sheep, just after a haircut. Leggy and bewildered. I've been taking off the big foliage, especially from lower down, to help to improve airflow and light. I also planted coriander, carrots, rainbow chard and bok choy. My more dedicated readers may remember that I planted those not long ago, but I've had some problems with the intense heat drying out seedlings during the day. We had yummy courgette fritters for lunch today. We haven't got hoards of members of the squash family taking over our lives this year, so Johnny is quite pleased about that.

On the sewing front, I had another great class yesterday at Stitch. I learned about free machine quilting and completed one panel, and started another (complete with swirls) yesterday. I've got quite a bit more to do before next week because we are going to start piecing the panels.

We're watching Martin Clunes visiting islands. I've got B's copies of series 2 and 4 of Doc Martin. I lent her my 1 and 3. Awesome, if I find time to watch them. I thought Joanna Lumley's Cat and Nile series were both wonderful over the last few weeks. I hope Martin is equally as good. Martin is looking a bit scared already because he has to get across from a boat to an island then climb lots of ladders. I'd be be scared too. He has a wet bottom.

Things making me pleased currently:
  • Criminal Minds is back on.
  • Fake eyelashes (eyelash extensions in little clumps)- hard to apply but wow!
  • Doggy dreams- Miss Dog is chasing rabbits.
  • Haloumi cheese with mint- yum.
  • Quilting.
  • The giant wool sack Johnny set up in a frame to store my garden rubbish.
  • Eating my homegrown garlic.
Kisses to my lovely family XXXXX

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Velvet puppies

Today I was lucky to be invited to visit a small farm with piggies, horses (yay), cows and calves, chookies and sheep. Plus Mr and Mrs Dog and their beautiful family. Look- the pups are only two weeks old and are spoodles (spaniel - poodle crosses).
I think they have been crafted out of velvet of the best quality. Their coats are shiny and super soft.
Mummy dog let us hold one at a time. She wasn't worried as long as the five others were in with her.
The biggest one's eyes are just opening. They've got tiny wee thick ears and the most amazing paddy paws with teeny tiny claws.

I knew there was no chance of ever taking one home in the future, so I didn't even imagine having one. Miss Dog would love her own wee friend, I'm sure, but her father has already drawn the line at one dog.

Other news from today:
  • I went to school and set out my classroom furniture.
  • I am learning how to do a few things that Johnny normally does. I tried to put a rivet in and had a go at making the mower start. I failed on both counts, but at least I had a go.
  • I've been practising squiggling around with the embroidery foot on my sewing machine. I'm getting more controlled.
  • I found a box of Roses chocolates in my classroom from the end of the year last year. There is a god.
  • We've had a lot of earthquakes (aftershocks) today. The biggest was 5.1 and woke us up at about 6am. It gave the house a good long rattle.
  • I'm really tired.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Heavenly Day

I had a wonderful day today. The weather was hot and beautifully sunny. I really have had a fabulous holiday this year. Sadly it is rapidly coming to an end, but I've got a few fun irons in the fire, so I'm hoping it won't feel like life is at an end when term begins.

The tomatoes are currently fascinating. I was so excited when the first one ripened, but the feathered varmints (aka blackbirds- possibly those raised in my very own garden) gobbled it all up before I got a taste. Traitors. I netted some of the tomato plants this morning. That might slow them down a little.
When it started getting too hot for outside I got stuck into my homework from the quilt course. I have to have three of my fat quarters quilted by the next class. Heaps of fun.
I did this one in straight lines to make a grid pattern. I decided after I had finished that diagonal lines would have worked better.
I practised my wiggly lines on this one. You can't really see the quilting too well in this photo. I tried to make the flowers look like they are floating on a river. You definitely can't tell from the photo- sorry you've missed out on greatness.
I learned about using my walking foot to make circles in different ways. I quilted around the big circles, and am filling in the background with squiggles (badly-but I'm learning how to control the fabric while free quilting -very tricky).
I got two envelopes today from my brilliant sister. Despite the warnings on the back of each envelope that the contents were boring, and that I wasn't to get too excited, I was very pleased indeed to find two quilting magazines. One of the magazines had quilts featured that I saw in person at the quilting conference thing I went to last year. Thanks Meg!!!!!

Once Johnny got home from playing golf we arranged to go and see darling Fraser. Last time you saw him he was 9 days old. He is now 3 months. He is very tall, with elegant long legs, and a very pretty face. Apparently he will feature at the Olympics in a few years. I wouldn't be at all surprised.
He is so tall now, and is losing his baby fur. He is going to be very dark in colour.
See how tall he is up against his mother, who is over 16 hands high. He will be weaned in about a month, which can't come soon enough for his lovely mummy, because is has taken a lot out of her raising him.

He is very friendly and interested in people. He has learned that nipping is not OK, but I would say it does require confidence with horses to hang out with him like I did today. He is pretty gentle but is learning about manners. Dear (not so wee) creature. He is really special. What a treat! After hanging out with Fraser we headed over to the arena to watch some horses in action. I'm going to start lessons soon. I'm so excited. I hope I don't fall off as it will be a long way down. And next week the next twilight eventing begins again, so we'll be helping out for three weeks.
I adore horses. Johnny is thankful the backyard is too small to house one.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I've been the only one to hang around Prebbleton all day today. The visitors visited friends, and Johnny had a round of golf. I did some gardening. Mostly pruning the rampant lower growth off the tomatoes, while imploring them to get cracking and produce fruit. John's mum deadheaded the roses and made afternoon tea.
Miss Dog, J. and I went for a walk, finding four different plum trees plus an apple tree to plunder. The apples aren't ready yet, but look like they may be cooking apples.

These are the fabrics I'm using for the course I am going on to learn how to machine quilt. I love the delphinium panel, which I will use as the feature in the middle.
I have been playing around with these hexagon pieces. This will grow into a table runner/mat thing for the little coffee table.
I'm using these hexagon templates which are quite a stiff card. I can pull the fabric over the edges of the card and iron them in place, then use a piece of masking tape to hold them together instead of tacking them. The templates will be reusable, which makes me very pleased indeed.

We have had an absolutely gluttonous week this week. I really need to go to some kind of boot camp. We're watching Departures, so I had better go and concentrate because it has subtitles. XXX

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hanging out with the holidayers

John's mum and her friend J. are here staying for the next few days. We picked them up yesterday. We've had a busy day today as we went into the city centre shopping. Ballantynes has the most beautiful things, although I still think I like vintage china more than the modern day versions. I didn't buy anything. Then we had to hurry home and the EQC assessors came to check out out earthquake damage. It took ages, and we thought we would go out for lunch afterwards, and by the time they had finished we were utterly ravenous. It turns out that we have under $10,000 worth of damage, so we can expect a cheque in the mail. Could be $20 for all we know. They measured all of the cracks around the windows, and looked at various little things, recording everything thoroughly. They were absolutely lovely, which was quite different than some people's experiences. After that we went to Riccarton for a little prowl, and to get a birthday cake for Johnny. It was ghastly there, with people milling around everywhere. We did pop into the Laura Ashley sale. We were rather incredulous at the price of one embroidered pillowcase - $99. It was pretty with a machine embroidered hydrangea, but really, who needs to spend $99 to have something to look and and drool on in the night. We've got B. coming around for tea tonight. I'm exhausted already.

Ps. Miss Dog is being such an angel. What a change from the crazy hound we had a couple of years ago!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


What a beautiful day today. We have been having a garden tidy-up and we have so much green waste that my compost heaps can't take any more. Today we loaded up Johnny's vehicle, Bazza the Beast, and took it to the green waste dump to be turned into compost. Hope their compost heap heats up well because otherwise the lucky purchasers of the compost are going to inundated with poppy and foxglove seedlings.

Johnny mowed the lawn today. More green stuff.
Miss Dog has been my shadow, as usual. She found the garden tidy-up rather dull, and after a while flopped down on the deck and looked bored.
Flying saucers growing in the gaden.
I've only ever grown corn once before, a while ago. It was a disaster. This year I'm anticipating corn glory.
I'm feeling very inspired by the gorgeous greens in the garden, particularly alongside the fabulous cerise colours of the petunias and roses.
The lettuces are going to seed and form tall, rather elegant, towers. The lime green ones with the cerise is particularly appealing.
I like the velvety roses with these lettuces. I'm imagining a quilt...
Meanwhile I finished piecing the tip of the Happy Holiday quilt. It looks quite surprising with the lavish border.
It is going to be reversible. Here is the main part of the back. It looks completely different on the screen. The stripe is the same as above. On my screen is looks mauve, but it is (yes, my current favourite) cerise. Amazing what a photo in different light can do to the colours in the image. The back and the front do actually co-ordinate, in case you were wondering.

The middle panel for the back is a Philip Jacobs fabric from the remnant treasures at Stitch. I've found some brilliant goodies at great prices there.

Enough said about my obsessions. On the family front, Fisherman Jim is back home and doing well. He'll be back on the high seas soon. Meanwhile his vege garden is looking rampant and glorious, and I'm jealous that he is harvesting tomatoes. Tomorrow is my wonderful dad's birthday. He is a legend! Johnny's mum and her friend J. come to stay tomorrow. We're going to Orana Park with them. Expect animal photos sometime this week. Probably mainly tiger ones.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Today Miss Dog and I decided to start the day with a lovely walk. She has been in disgrace since having one of her very rare (very enormous) poo accidents in the garage on Thursday night. Johnny had tidied up all of his tools and made the garage look lovely, and Miss Dog soiled it in the most hideous manner possible. He wasn't pleased. She is usually so good, and woofs only occasionally when she is desperate for the loo. On our walk today we met a gentleman chocolate lab who was pleased to make our acquaintance. His father said he was eight, and Miss Dog is too. It was amazing comparing the two of them because Mr Choccy looked like a well-worn teddy, and Miss Dog looks so fresh and young. She is such a delight.

Another delight in my day was a visit to Stitch over on Colombo Street. I arrived there after rather a fraught trip getting there due to hoards of skinny creatures pedaling madly around the streets of Cashmere (elite cycle racing nationals). I was anxious not to kill anyone - spectator or competitor- and the vast quantities of stewards randomly flailing signs at every corner didn't exactly help.

Gosh I love visiting Stitch! I'm working on developing my passions in life (more about that another day), and I figure the fact that I get so excited by beautiful bolts of fabric that I forget to breathe means that working with fabric must be one of my passions. I had so much fun choosing the right fabrics with the lovely Fenella. And it turns out there is the perfect class starting next week. I've been wondering how I can learn some more quilting skills as I am a "stitch in the ditch" girl. The class is a "quilt as you go" class so each week for four weeks we work on new quilting skills. Perfect.

Ignore the need for a good iron. It was flat when I put it together. Here is the gorgeous stripe which I am using as a wee sash and the binding on my Happy Holidays quilt.
And here is the truly fabulous fabric I chose for the outer sash.
Makes my heart sing! That's how I know I've made a choice I'll be happy with. It only takes one fabric in a project that I'm not happy with and I won't be able to look past the problem. That's why Miss Dog has an unfinished quilt with no binding. One of the fabrics does not make me happy.

After running the gauntlet of the cyclists again on the way home (they were everywhere), I visited the supermarket and decided Johnny would make his ravioli again.
Rolling out the dough.
Popping the filling on.
Funny little parcels. Yum.
No gardening today. Must do better tomorrow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

We decided to go to the movies today. Last year we discovered Stieg Larson's Millennium trilogy, both in book form and the Swedish movie adaptations. So today was the day for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. We enjoyed it so much. The acting was absolutely brilliant.
Noomi Rapace, who plays the lead, Lisbeth, is incredible. Strange to see her in photos as herself rather than Lisbeth, because as you can see, Lisbeth has a rather distinctive image.

What impressed me so much about the Swedish production was that the actors are so un-Hollywoodish. Not all perfect and pretty. Watching movies and TV there are so many characters that are "attractive" but in reality humans come in all shapes, sizes, colours, with spots, wrinkles, hair that won't behave, hair in the "wrong" places, boobs that don't have implants and saggy bits. I think that quirky looking males have more change of success (providing they are talented) than women who aren't attractive. Add that to all of the airbrushing in ads and magazine features, no wonder we judge ourselves so harshly. I could rant on about this topic for ages, but I won't.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Today was a windy day, and I hate the wind. So I stayed indoors in the morning and worked on two of my current projects. I finally got to work on assembling the pretty blue and pink quilt I made from fabrics from Primroses, which sadly closed last year. No wonder it closed if all of its customers worked as slowly as I do sometimes. I pinned the layers together but need pink thread for the bobbin, so now I've got to go shopping for some.
I also finished piecing the middle panel for the Happy Holidays quilt.

The colours look rather glorious together, but I'm sure it will be tricky to find fabrics that make me happy for the sashing and binding. While I'm purchasing pink cotton I can cast my eyes over the bolts of fabric.

My brother, Fisherman Jim, is in hospital after twisting his knee, which then went all nasty and his whole leg swelled up with infection. Horrible. He was out on the fishing boat off the coast of Auckland when it happened. Strange how an injury with no external damage could get so infected. I guess he must have had a wee scrape somewhere else which sent germs to the injury site. I've got no idea how he ended up being a fisherman because it seems to be one of those jobs that are passed from Salty Seadog dads to their Salty Seapup sons. My only experience of fishermen is from my comfy vantage point on the couch watching Deadliest Catch. I get seasick on a slightly wobbly wharf. Anyway- best wishes to Fisherman Jim, who not only had a terrible Christmas Day fixing broken boat gear far from the family (with a pie for lunch), but now has to be pumped full of IV antibiotics to stop his leg falling off. Well, to be honest, it would probably kill him first. Poor Jim!!!!! But at last report he was coming right and was being transferred to Nelson Hospital to be near to home. He might get some Christmas presents now.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy Holidays Quilt

I had my laziest start to the day for a long time. It has rained on and off today, so we lazed in bed until late, then meandered our way to the Thyme Cafe for coffee and an iced chocolate. Oh my goodness they do the best iced chocolate I have ever come across. Sometimes you come across a watery, bland iced chocolate that seems to be ice, milk, water, a dash of powdered chocolate and maybe a bit of whipped cream on the top. Thyme Cafe make a silky, thick, delicious iced chocolate with lines of chocolate syrup coating the interior of a tall glass, a big blob of vanilla ice-cream, whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate. Mmmm- happiness in a glass.

As it was raining I decided to get to work on the "Happy Holidays" quilt. It has required a very methodical approach to keep everything in order as a mistake would be really obvious. I have everything lined up carefully, then gather each strip up the same way every time.
My loyal companion sticks close on her own quilt. I must make her another one. Today is toenail clipping day. She does in every now and then, snipping and biting with her teeth. I don't mind at all (saves me a job) but it sends Johnny into a frenzy of irritation.
Joining the squares together. I did some on Mum's machine, which is so quiet compare to my one. But mine has an automatic thread cutter, which speeds my progress up hugely. It also has an automatic needle threader, which is brilliant, plus it has little diagrams, arrows and numbers everywhere so that I can't muck up threading and other operations.
Ironing each strip. Odd seams are ironed upwards and even seams downwards so that they lie nicely when put together.
Here are the strips completed.
Joining the strips.

At this point I discovered that my squares aren't quite perfectly even so my cross seams don't line up. As this is the same on every quilt I make I am not surprised, but a few unseemly bad words pass through my head. How do I manage to produce uneven squares using a rotary cutter and square template? Possibly because I need to replace my rotary cutter as it is a bit dodgy. The template also slips a little if I'm not careful. I try to make my seams even when I'm sewing them, but who knows, I could be mucking up there too. My policy on quilt making: if I worry about perfection I wouldn't do anything, so I get stuck in and give it a go.

I should be finished piecing the inner panel very soon, and you know what that means... a trip to my favourite quilt shop Stitch Playroom! I know this one is going to be a tricky one to match colours for the sashing and binding. At first I thought I would just need a binding, but now I realize it definitely needs some blocks of fabric surrounding the busy panel in the centre. I'll just have to have a good play around and I'm sure something fabulous will present itself.

On the cooking front- Johnny's ravioli was superb! The filling was so delicious. He gave it some oomph with half of a mushroom stock cube (the yummy kind from The Mediterranean Warehouse) added to the ricotta, mushrooms and parmesan. I think that pasta needs a strong tasting filling or it disappears and seems too bland. I used the first of my garlic in the sauce. Tomatoes are a great price this year. Hopefully that means my crop will be enormous.

It is supposed to be hot and fine tomorrow. More gardening.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I feel rather grubby and I smell like tomato foliage. I've been out in the garden taming a few rampant tomato plants and giving the front garden a bit of a tidy up (read - hack/slash). I planted two new squash plants (thanks Mum) and they look pretty happy in the vege patch. I've got two big ones about to fruit, so I guess it will be fritters and tomato and courgette pasta sauces coming up. Johnny is making some ravioli for tea. He is stuffing them with mushrooms, ricotta and parmesan. I will make a fresh tomato sauce. I've got a few fat tomatoes coming on, but no red ones yet. I've got a fantastic crop of basil this year, my best ever. On the cooking front, this morning I decided to try out my new River Cottage Handbook on bread. I followed the basic recipe and techniques as well as I could and this was the result:
They look pretty good and taste good too. The technique was a little more complicated than the Jamie Oliver technique that I usually follow, but the result is very good. More even crumb and superb shape. I learned how to use a more complicated technique for kneading, which was hard work, but a real pleasure because I didn't get all caked with dough myself. I am really looking forward to experimenting some more.

Here are some more of my great Christmas presents. Our lovely friend B game me one of her beautiful embroidered cushions. I got to choose one from her collection, which was pretty tricky as they are all gorgeous. I feel very lucky to have one and will treasure it. Homemade presents really are very special. I also got a copy of the 2010 NZ Gardener Garden Diary. I must start filling it in because there has been a lot of action around here on the garden front. And my old friend Te Radar features as well with his very entertaining book about his 10 month adventure in sustainable country living Off the Radar. It is TV gardeners like Te Radar, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Lynda Hallinan who have really promoted gardening in many peoples lives. It is fashionable to dabble in vege gardening and there are some interesting products available for the amateur gardener. You can buy some incredibly expensive raised beds, some of dubious growing ability. My favourite find was individual seed potatoes growing in little pots which made me snigger to myself.

It has been much cooler today. Miss Dog has been hovering around me constantly, and enjoyed a walk this morning. We found some delicious plums on the side of the road.

Hope you had a great day!

Monday, January 3, 2011


We arrived home from our wonderful, long family holiday yesterday. It is hot today.
We've been busy in the garden tidying up today. Things always get a bit rampant and scruffy in our absence. My raised beds have been very busy producing.
I can't quite believe my eyes. Not only have my capsicum plants produced peppers, they are colouring up. Yes, I grew that red pepper. A Christmas miracle has occurred.
I decided that today was the day to harvest the garlic. This is only part of my crop. We'll be having garlic breath every day for 2011!
And onto Christmas presents. I was very lucky indeed, so I must have been a good girl during 2010. Awesome bag and the cutest thermos flask ever.
Jolly "love" dog doorstoppers. Two actually- which will come in very handy when we have all of the doors open as the slightest breeze can cause the doors to slam in an alarming fashion.
Wonderful painting by our wee niece, Lucy. Plus my new lizard and praying mantis plant ties (which also make excellent wrist bands for when I am being Super Garden Woman).
More goodies in the next post.
Here are my bargains of the holiday. Cute Keds shoes from the bargain bin at Whitwells Motueka (highly recommended shoe and mainly mens clothing shop).
Huge gift box from Lush - half price in the post-Christmas sale. Smells fabulous. The sugar scrub did a great job on my filthy feet after stomping around in the garden for hours.
Here is my "Happy Holiday" quilt that I am currently working on. I got most of the fabric at Thimbles and Threads in Upper Hutt. By the way, ladies at Thimbles and Threads- I don't appreciate being followed around like a criminal when I visit your shop. Particularly when I'm about to spend a considerable amount of money. Again, a ridiculously bright quilt, but Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs fabric don't lead me down a subtle path.
Just in case you were doubting my ability to work on more refined projects, here is the finished "Mother-in-law Quilt" which uses soft blues and greens with white. A Christmas present for Johnny's lovely mum. It is a lap quilt, which is the size I prefer to work in.

Note my assistant. She has been so terribly hot with her thick blacker-than-black coat today. She is longing for a swim in the creek, but had to settle for a splash in her water bowl.

On a final note, there is women's tennis on. Maria Sharapova is giving it all she has, and I am wondering if there is some kind of scream collar (like Miss Dog wears when she has been naughty barking) because if Johnny wasn't watching I'd be changing the channel to get away from the hideous noise she makes with every shot.

Ps. Love to all of my wonderful family XXXX Missing you already.