Saturday, January 25, 2014


There was rather a lot of distress and trauma this week when my sewing machine decided to jam up and refuse to stitch. If you look at the photo closely you will see the box of painkillers in the background. When I am in a sewing mood and loving it, cutting me off suddenly in mid project is torture. I have had it serviced a few months ago, so it shlould be in top form, but it refused to baste my sleeve caps and then jammed completely. Johnny and I both pored over the inner workings. I rethreaded after cleaning out the crevices. It jammed up in a mass of threads. A day later I went back in, untangled it again and it worked. What?????

Anyway, I am now thinking about needing a replacement at some stage. So many models to choose from. I have studied lots of reviews and it seems that many machines are both loved and loathed by different users. I need one that is very accurate with excellent quality stitches. It needs to be able to cope with quilting and must be able to have the feed dogs lowered so that I can embroider and free machine quilt. I also want fantastic buttonholes, as my current machine is very dodgy in that department. My machine has loads of stitches, which I rarely use, but possibly would if the quality was better. I love sewing so having a fantastic sewing machine is really important. 

Now I can show you the finished project. It is another version of Gertie's Portrait Blouse. A little prim and proper, but will be sweet with jeans. 

The fabric is a piece of vintage cotton from Auntie Jenny's stash. Possibly Liberty. Gertie's original blouse has wee cap sleeves all-in-one with the bodice. I cut back the shoulders and drafted my own sleeves. I used darts instead of tucks to shape the front and lenghthened the blouse a fair bit. 
The back had tucks to shape, plus there was a side zip. I used shirring instead. It turned out perfectly. 
I added dear wee lemon coloured cupped flower buttons from my button collection. 

I am very pleased with the result, which looks a bit more interesting on me because my dressmaker's dummy, Ruby, is not quite as nipped in at the waist as me, so the shirring produces a sort of peplum effect when I wear it - less frumpy, I think. Ruby looks like she is developing a dowager's hump!

My next project may be something using some very prettty tartan cotton. Hope my machine wants to co-operate. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Catching up

Sorry, I have been missing in action. No excuses- just doing all sorts of things. We've been exercising more, which has been good. We had a great bike ride at the Mcleans Island track, and a good walk around the Halswell Quarry Park. The quarry is a very interesting place, so I must take my camera next time. We decided climbing the hill there is a good fitness test because I moved at snail's pace lugging myself upwards. Hopefully I can improve. 

I was rather excited to find a real satsuma mandarin at the supermarket. This beauty was from Japan, and I bought just one as a treat. And a treat it was. I think it was probably one of the most delicious mandarins I have ever had, and was a fair size too. None to be found now. Maybe they will just be a Christmas treat. 
 I have been taking regular trips out to ride my darling girl, and I spotted this amazing sight last week:
 These can be seen at West Melton currently, and I was so pleased that I pulled over for a closer look. They are stunning.

 I have been doing some harvesting at home. Mr Mouse approves of my shallot crop.
 The vegetable patch has made me exceedingly pleased. I love the tall bean tower, even though the beans haven't started producing yet.
Zanny is looking so beautiful at the moment. Her coat is dappled and her chewed tail is growing back nicely. Aria ate quite a bit of it. Well Aria got the blame, but it could have been Fergie. 
 She was having a nice snack after I washed her. You can see the strange cyst on her bum cheek - it is not ugly, just unusual because it seems to be filled with air and crackles strangely when you run your hand over it. Apparently she has had it for many years, and it never changes. We have enjoyed some more rides out along the road, although we did have some difficulties with a bird scarer cannon today, which alarmed us both horribly blasting like a shotgun repeatedly. Zanny spun around and headed for home, and I really couldn't blame her.
 Look - there is a lovely new addition to the horse herd at the farm.
This lady and her brand new colt foal are boarding at the farm currently. The wee man is less than two days old. He is a very pretty colour. I guess he will darken up to be the same colour as his mother, as they don't usually stay the same colour as they are born. He has lovely white markings, including a bit white blaze on his face. It will be interesting seeing him change as he grows. He is at least half quarter horse, so will look very different from Aria and Fergie as he grows up. 

I am busy working on a blouse currently so I must take some photos. Hope it works out cause I have had to make the sleeves shorter than I hoped due to a fabric shortage. I am working on organising my craft cupboard and dug out some pieces of fabric that will do for sewing projects (experiments). I have been watching Dexter while sewing, like usual. Every project has a touch of serial killer built into it. Very strange. I have also started watching The Darling Buds of May, which couldn't be any more different. I adore the books, and just finished them, and love the television adaptation too. 

We discovered today that there is not another dressage twilight event on Monday, so I won't be going out with Zanny sadly. Never mind, I am happy enough riding at home. Tomorrow will be another good riding day, and I have more gardening and sewing to do. I love the holidays so much. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hacking Heaven

I'm very pleased to say that Zanny and I got our confidence back hacking out and about around the roads today. We have been extending our rides gradually, and today we managed one of our favourite longer rides around what I call the small block. Since being buddied up with Tara she has been more anxious leaving the company of other horses, which has led to one or two minor dramas. She has felt very tense as we headed off down the road, but we had a couple of lovely rides out with friends, and I pushed us further each time. 

Today I aimed to conquer the scary hayshed, and once we passed that with only a minor sneaky sideways shuffle and snort, I thought we might keep going and check out the wee creek. Zanny was striding out happily and negotiated a trailer with big rotting haybales. I thought we should check out the scary chicken house, which has chained dogs outside the property. She passed that with barely a flinch. So we then kept going around the rest of the block, past the unfamiliar horses, up the driveway, with tractor and harrows roaring around, and safely home. 

Now we have been having masses of head flicking in the arena, and today there was not a moment when I felt she wasn't having a good time. Her ears were pricked, and she was obviously enjoying looking around. I deliberately rode her almost the entire way "on the buckle" which means I held the very end of the reins with no pressure on her mouth at all. I can steer her with either my legs, looking where I want to go, or with very gentle reining. No head flick. No issues with controlling her. She is so much happier out and about than schooling in the arena. Maybe we just need to focus on what she likes to do, because when she is happy, I'm happy too. 

A huge happy birthday to my lovely dad for yesterday. We did have a lovely chat yesterday, but you 
can never have too many birthday wishes. I wish we could have been there for the fun and surprises. I love how much my dad loves being Poppa to the three grandchildren. I'm a bit sad we haven't produced some more for Poppa to dote on, but I think the grandcat, granddog and grandhorses are pretty special. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Another treasure on the way!

Exciting news today! Our lovely chestnut mare, Tara, has succeeded in her mission to attract a tall, handsome stallion, and now has a foal in her tummy. I am super excited, as I'm sure you can imagine. My dear foal friends are now yearlings, and are looking like little horses, rather than ponies, so it is fantastic to have a new wee one to look forward to. 

Today we were lucky enough to have Johnny come to see us working in the arena, so I have photos. Isn't Zanny looking beautiful? Her coat is dappled, and she is maintaining her weight easily currently. I should have worn a different cardigan as I clash badly with my lovely new saddle blanket. Zanny matches it beautifully, of course. 
 She was checking out the new bus-stop style covered teaching seat with Johnny sitting inside. Who is that in there? Possibly a monster. No, just John.
 She looks quite smart here, but we were having rather a lot of head flicking. I'm seriously considering exploring trying a bitless bridle with her. She has a very sensitive mouth, and I can tell before I have put her bridle on that she doesn't like having the bit put in her mouth. She gets all fidgety and chomps her teeth unhappily. I have been told she is too old to bother changing things now, but I really think it could make a difference. We already use the softest bit possible.
 I was practising movements required for an upcoming dressage event. Not sure if I will enter, but we can certainly do the required halt, walk and trot movements for the introductory level test.

We almost had a crash on the way back to the stable. Poor Zanny did the worst ever stumble I have experienced and almost went down. Thank goodness she managed to stay up, as I really thought she was going to land on her knees. She stumbled on the exposed roots on the path, probably because she was thinking about getting back to the stable yard as quickly as she could. I will have to direct her path more firmly- I usually let her pick her way back.

Look closely- can you spot something sitting in the grass in the stable yard?
 There were two tiny bunnies munching on the grass. One ran away, but the other seemed oblivious to the arrival of two humans and a large horse.
 I hope the wee bunny is quicker to disappear when the dogs are around!
 Finally, a lovely view of the sky over the family farm. Johnny spent quite a bit of time experimenting until he photographed lots and lots of stars. The night sky in the country is so beautiful without the competing lights from towns and cities.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Holiday Roundup Three

One of the fun things we did on holiday was to have lunch at Founders Park.
I think Henry is grinning so much to show off his lipgloss. Plus he is about to eat, which is a very good reason to smile in my books. It was a very busy day at the restaurant, and raining as well, so we tucked ourselves under a big umbrella and had a lovely time. 
I fell in love with this beautiful house and want one just the same. I would dress the part of the lady of the house and would definitely need a maid or two. 

Shame about the rain. 
Today the weather has been lovely, although the wind is coming up now, swirling around the garden. I have been tying up the tomatoes, which are rather rampant and floppy, and doing a bit of weeding around the pumpkins. Of course I had plenty of supervision. 

This morning I rode Zanny with my friend Heather and her lovely boy. We went out for our first road ride together and it was a great success. Our steeds were wonderful and we chatted away enjoying the relaxed pace and sunshine. Zanny decided the big open hayshed was full of monsters of a horrible kind, but settled for a couple of spook frights, a bit of snorting and some funny moves as we passed. Heather's boy, who is the king of amateur dramatics when on his own, was perfect with Zanny's leadership, and even ignored the creepy hayshed. Zanny much prefers road rides to arena practise, and I do too when all goes well. It is such a pleasure to see the world from the top of a happy horse. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Summer Fun

Why, oh why did I forget my camera today? Probably cause I spent so long mucking around taming my hair and applying red lipstick. It actually didn't look like a promising day when we headed out. It was drizzling. We went to visit The Tannery, which is a relatively new boutique shopping mall- but not like a regular mall. It is very stylish and has lots of lovely independent shops. We had a good prowl around, and agreed that it would be a great place to take visitors to town. We didn't purchase anything - although there were lots of lovely items that I admired. We did spot a tortilla press- but decided that it was rather expensive.

After our visit to the shops, we headed out to Sumner Beach. By then it was sunny and bright, so on went the sunhats, off came the shoes, and we walked along the beach from the Scarborough end right down to the poor toppled remnants of Shag Rock. I love sloshing along in the seawater, and there were schools of wee fishies in the shallows. Lots of dogs were playing on the beach, and I said that Miss Dog would love an outing to the beach, and Johnny reminded me how she soiled the waters on a previous visit, in a most unpleasant manner. There were people of all shapes and sizes, from bikini clad youngsters, to plump grannies, and a few sturdy gentlemen giving their rotund tummies a good airing. I spotted a tiny wee person wearing a bumblebee swimsuit, complete with matching bathing cap. I was rather envious, but I'd make a nightmarish bumblebee!

Tomorrow promises to be a busy day. Zanny and I are going for a ride. Not sure if we will have company. My new horsey friend is staying on the farm while the family are away on holiday, and she keeps her horse there too. She is American, and really interesting and sweet. I really enjoy riding in the arena with her and we may go out for a wee ride sometime. Her boy is a twit when she goes out riding by herself, but is fine plodding along with company. He spots big monsters everywhere. Mind you, Zanny can be a daft tart over new things lying around. She did some serious reverse and sideways spooking when she spotted a pile of stuff covered by a tarpaulin on our last ride. We got past it in one piece, but I confess to having jelly legs by the time we made it into the arena. I always get the urge to bail when something goes wrong, but there's no bailing from so high up, unlike on a pony. I have enough trouble getting down when Zanny parks herself and looks around to see if I am hurrying up and getting off.

On the home front- the front garden is a mess and I am very displeased with it. Grrrr.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Goldrush - Holiday Roundup Two

Wooo hooo! Time for a gold rush! I got a lovely gold pan from Fisherman Jim (now known as Prospector Jim) for Christmas. He also gave me a bag of gold bearing gravel so that I could learn how to pan correctly. Sorry, all photos of me have been excluded (censored) due to general hideousness, but you will get the idea. I really got into it and had bra straps hanging, scraggly hair, and various intense expressions on my face that will remain archived in the depths of my computer. 

First I had my lesson. Jim is an excellent teacher.
 As you can see, I studied hard and successfully found the gold Jim hid in the gravel.
 Very exciting! Then Jim and I took a prospecting expedition to a secret location on the Baton River. Actually, it was the best place we found to get down the riverbank through the fierce brambles.
 It was absolutely beautiful at the river, but we were tormented by clouds of hungry sandflies. They behaved like rampant piranhas, and my legs are still rather spotty even though we used plenty of repellent.
The water was cool, but not too cold to spend considerable time in. I sat on rocks and had my feet and lower legs underwater while I panned. Great fun. I wouldn't say we were particularly successful, but any colour is good colour- we found about 8 tiny flakes of gold between us. I think if we had time for more visits we would find the best spots for fossicking. Maybe next summer.

Sadly we live on the wrong side of the Island for gold panning, so it will have to be a holiday activity. There has been very little gold found on the eastern side of the South Island. Curses. I love it - so much fun with treasure hunting thrown in.

We had a great morning today. We visited an Indian supermarket, which was fascinating. We will be back there again with actual recipes in mind. We were actually looking for a chapatti press, but there were none to be found. Then we went to the Mediterranean Food Warehouse, which is rather too posh to be a warehouse. They have wonderful things and we came home with a beautiful baguette and some mozzarella balls for lunch.

After lunch I donned my jodhpurs and headed out to see Zanny. She was very pleased to see me, but was a bit tricky to ride today. She was a bit irritable after a while, flicking her head a lot, and she was obviously thinking about everything but her job. We did some good trotting, and we managed cantering on both leads, in spite of my lack of practise over the past couple of weeks. My back felt very out of alignment when I started our ride today, but seemed to straighten out with the rising trot practise. I'm sure riding helps my back enormously. Zanny seemed to like her new saddle blanket - thanks Meg! I was going to take a photo but got distracted because I had a friend to ride with today, and couldn't muck around.

In the garden I did a little weeding (my new weeding tool is fantastic), and sowed some more beans to fill the gaps in the dwarf bean rows. Johnny installed a new washing line yesterday. We finally got a rotary one to replace the long pioneer style lines which stretched across the vege patch. It was brilliant to use the new one today.

What a lovely day! A bit of exploring, riding, gardening and great weather.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Holiday Roundup One

Home again, home again, jig-a-jig-jig! Yes, we have returned home after our Christmas break in the lovely Nelson district. The next couple of posts (or maybe more) will feature some adventures from our break away. We had a lovely time, received some wonderful presents, ate delicious, fresh food and spent time with family every day. Of course it is always lovely to return home, and this time was no exception. Fortunately we left the house in a reasonably tidy state in the frenzy of packing and wrapping gifts, so all was pleasing when we returned home. 

The first fun thing I got to do on holiday was visit the berry garden to pick berries for Christmas dinner. The place was seething with people, and Mum was rather disgusted that the strawberries were all picked out, and the raspberries had few scraggly berries remaining. Never mind, we went for berries, and returned home with plenty. 

The first obstacle at the berry garden is the very long, and (if I might say so myself), rather horribly wobbly swing bridge. I was hoping my riding skills would have improved my balance somewhat, but sadly no. The sign on the bridge did not fill me with confidence either. 

 Johnny thought I was rather brave to stop and take a photo in the middle of the bridge.

 Mum and Dad with containers ready for action. Look out, don't eat the berries! Don't step over the rows! Mind your children! You will get yelled at if you break the rules. Be warned.
 Mmmmm- look at those glossy blackberries. Couldn't resist. I broke rule number one and ate rather a lot. Lucky there wasn't a purple tongue check.

 The blackberry picking was so much fun.
 We enjoyed berries for days after Christmas Day, but they do go so well with pavlova and lashings of cream. Oh, and plum pudding.

Well, returning to Christchurch is always fun when I take a prowl around the garden to see what has grown well in my absence. There has been rather a lot of rain, so that is pleasing.

The cabbages are starting to heart up already. Sod off white butterflies!!!!
 The hostas are spectacular. The beastly slugs and snails concentrated on mauling my vege patch instead.
 Parts of the garden look like wildflower meadows in small scale. I just needed some cornflowers with the poppies.
 I am very impressed with the growth of the painted lady beans, but where are the beans? Naked stumps lurk where little beans should be developing. I've got dwarf beans coming up as a back up, fortunately.
 Having visited all three of the other gardens in the South Island tomato growing speed competition, I can confidently say I have the most tomatoes ripe at this stage in proceedings. Jim has the first ripe big tomato. Henry got the first ripe cherry tomato (well, had I checked earlier I may have beaten him- not a good idea- he is a sore loser as four year olds tend to be- ha!). Mum and Dad have the most elegantly tended tomato plants. Clearly my lateral control has a lot to be desired. One of my gardening gurus, Alys Fowler, believes that whipping out the laterals is unnatural and potentially introduces disease, and can weaken the plants. You can't beat a row of smart tomatoes in Mum and Dad's greenhouse though. Nothing weak about those sturdy stems.
Since I am still on holiday, keep an eye out for more blog entries. The wind is blowing vigorously today, but I still want to go and visit my darling equine friend this afternoon. Snuggling into her warm neck is one of life's great pleasures.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

I am sitting quietly, happily surrounded by my wonderful family. Our wee nephew is four years old. Such a lovely age, giggly and busy learning. He says and does the funniest things. One brother is missing, but it isn't easy to spend the holidays away from home with a wee baby. 

So what shall I aim to achieve this year? I guess I could aim high, but keeping it simple might be a better idea. 

- knit something
-crochet something
-finish my unfinished quilt projects
-find a pattern for and make a fabulous dress
-sort out my front garden so that I feel proud of it
-grow good chili plants
-grow a good supply of salad greens all year
-grow tomatillos and make salsa verde 
-cook using recipe books 
-join the library
-exercise more
-collect some more chintz china
-make some blankets for the SPCA
-canter elegantly
-make substantial healthy lunches for school
-watch less tv and do more fun making and doing instead 
-take better photos 
-read lots of books 
-be more organised
-sort out the house and keep it that way

I am going to remember that if I want something to happen I need to work on it. Things don't change without an effort. Make the most of each day. XXXX