Sunday, February 26, 2017

Silver Linings and Frenemies

Sometimes things which appear disastrous turn out to have hidden rewards, and those we take to be our friends are actually not so benevolent; this has been my recent experience at least. 

The fire which almost destroyed Shoestring Cottage seemed to be a bad setback, and a large part of the garden was destroyed, but now that there is more light being let in after destruction of most of the cherry tree, things which never would have grown there are thriving.  To begin with I plonked in a lot of colourful and bulky annuals, and how well they have rewarded my faith in them!  

The cleomes, those odd looking, old fashioned spidery flowered plants, have romped away and they are in such pretty purple, pink and white shades that they have added a whole new range of colours to the garden.  (So much for that long ago concocted plan of having a white garden but the more colour the better at present.)  The other annuals which have risen to the challenge are the mallows, also in pinks and with the odd white one thrown in for good measure.

The canna lilies took the fire as an encouragement to prosper and show off all their wild colours, so there is a rather odd contrast between the oranges, reds and yellows of these subtropicals and the pinks, purples and whites of the newcomers, and though it’s not a colour combination anybody would have planned out for the garden, at least it has stopped the weeds from taking over while the earth was bare.  

The bees and butterflies are having a field day and everybody is happy.

I can’t remember planting this moon flower but I have tried them before with not much success, and this time seem to have hit the jackpot, no doubt because of more warmth and light with the boughs of the old cherry tree being removed.  Or maybe this is one I planted before the fire, which has recovered despite its singeing.  

Because I lavished the scorched earth with compost and coffee grounds (my cure for whatever ails the garden), a few unexpected things have popped up, such as this tomato seedling which I have left alone and am surprised to see has survived and now has a little crop of fruit, even though it might be a bit late in the season. 

On the down side though my former friends in the garden, the thrush family, upon whom I lavished so much affection, have rewarded me by raising a clutch of motley and speckled young who are intent upon shredding the coconut fibre liners in all my hanging baskets and whom I also suspect of being the culprits in wrenching all my lavender seedlings out of the earth.  I find it hard to smile upon them in their new incarnation and these frenemies also seem to have stopped eating the snails.  I am wondering if they have turned their attention to my grape vine, which has its first ever crop of fruit, but I could be unjustly blaming the thrushes here, it might be the entire group of avian frenemies, starlings, sparrows, thrushes and mynah birds who are feasting on the grapes as soon as they ripen.

Another wonderful Art Deco Weekend has passed and as per usual it seemed to be the best ever.  The weather for once did not smile on us and we had a weekend with rain and not much sun, but it was fine on the first evening when we went for a walk and saw a beautiful sunset, and also when the Gatsby Picnic was on.  Because it wasn’t as hot as it usually is, we were able to wear our furs comfortably and the balls, dances and dinners were all wonderful.  We met some new friends who come from Australia and have their very own deco names just for when they are attending, and we thought that was a splendid idea, so now just have to settle on our own names for future years.  On the way to Napier Lord and Lady Raglan were very patient as we scoured every op shop along the way, and then of course when we revisited on the way back to pick up things we had been uncertain about at the first visit.  My best buy wasn’t from an op shop, I found it in the antiques and collectibles fair, and I think it will be a standby for winter deco and future years.  To be honest the gauntlet gloves are so much on the snug side that I may have to carry them about with me rather than wear them, but they will look most stylish all the same.  And the handbag has the most clever clasp which is two acorns pressing together. 

Also I picked up two wonderful works of art to add to the walls at Shoestring Cottage. (I hesitated to tell Mr Shoestring that there are 19 of them on the walls of one room alone now, as he struggled to reach high enough to add the latest additions.) 

They march all the way up the wall and there isn’t much space left, so I have begun to try to give some away to obliging family members, with some success.  That’s only the less colourful ones you understand, not my personal favourites which are full of unlikely depictions of the natural world with emerald green grass, azure skies and sparkling sapphire waters.  One of the new additions had a bridge (I didn’t think of this to begin with, but it fits in with the bridges theme of one grouping), and who would have thought in the beginning that there would be so many of them?  These two paintings were actually a bargain because Mr Shoestring charmed the op shop lady into giving him a discount, almost two for the price of one!

Now that art deco weekend is over for the year we have turned our attention to more fun things to cheer ourselves up until winter deco, and have hit upon the idea of A Day At The Races party.  The local racing club will be the venue and we are going to take an old fashioned boot picnic with tasty dishes  such as asparagus rolls, bacon and egg pie and maybe lamingtons as well.  Ladies to wear their prettiest “frocks” and hats, gentlemen their country squire jackets.  Plaid blankets to sit on, wicker baskets to hold our picnics, and a mixture of pretty china to serve the dainties.  Therefore this plate was a must.

Luckily we can hire a gazebo in case of inclement weather and some bunting will be a nice addition.  The personalised invitations have been sent out, so let planning commence.  When I saw Mrs Peaceable and tried to bully her into making her delicious bacon and egg pie, of which Mr Shoestring is inordinately fond, she seemed to take it in good spirits so I have high hopes for a delicious repast.  Maybe sangria or pretty fruity punch.  Mr Shoestring is already on the lookout for a shooting stick to sit on, but I had to forbid Mr Peaceable from wearing jeans.  Standards must be maintained, after all! Happy days, happy days!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Torrid Times

I've been absent from the blogosphere for a while with bad health and then the near loss of dear little Shoestring Cottage to fire.  The house next door to Shoestring caught fire and was destroyed; luckily nobody was hurt though, and all occupants were able to escape before the worst damage was done. The wonderful volunteer fire fighters who turned out from towns all around did an amazing job and saved Shoestring, though it was too late to be able to save the house next door.  When I put my crystal sculptures in the garden I thought I might one day lose them to wind but it never occurred to me that fire would be the culprit.  The repair of the cottage and garden will take a while but if we take things one step at a time we will get there.  Melted spouting and blistered paint are small problems when we think what might have been. 

Life goes on though and at the markets this weekend we were pleased to find this painting to go on the walls already collapsing under the weight of our collection of priceless art works. This is so evocative of the Waikato, and when you can see it in "real life" you get a sense of the sun going down at the end of a winter day, with the last light glowing on the distant hills and illuminating the leafless trees.  Of course it doesn't fit the "theme" of any of the collections of paintings and so it might just be the start of a new one.  

At the markets I almost crowed with delight when Mr Shoestring found me three more glasses to add to the 1953 royal visit collection, it really is becoming quite substantial now and we're even getting some matchy matchy pieces; in time we could be able to host a royalist party and provide our guests with plates and glassware, though the plates seem more difficult to find.  

A long time ago I had a few beautiful old handkerchiefs with embroidery so fine and detailed that I always stopped to admire them when I came across them in my sewing cupboard.  Though they served no practical purpose I thought it might be pretty to sew them all onto a sheer voile curtain to display them better and this week I found some beauties.  Actually I think I have more than enough now for the curtain but the thrill of the chase makes me pick them up when I see them.  I must remember to take some to art deco weekend next year, because a lady would never be without a hanky in those times, though some of them are so tiny and fragile that it's hard to imagine them being practical when pressed into service.

The top one is cream silk and the embroidery is very subtle and pretty.   

Another find was an embroidered picture of a cosy cottage complete with water wheel, worked in minute detail using cottons.  The person who worked this took so much time and care, it would be a shame for it to be neglected and unappreciated.  

Another thing which has given me a lot of pleasure lately is searching for plates like these, as a joke Christmas present for my dear mama.  The three with poems on them all have the same poem, very sentimental.  

To one who bears the sweetest name
And adds a lustre to the same
Who shares my joys
Who cheers when sad
The greatest friend I ever had
Long life to her for there's no other
Can take the place of my Dear Mother

I was hoping that when I gave her the collection she would think I gave them seriously, have to pretend to be pleased and vow to treasure them forever.  I know though that she will instantly realise they are a joke, and insist on giving them back to me so I can smash them up for mosaics.  It's worth a try though.  

We recently salvaged an old light fitting from The Firstborn when she and her husband were renovating their first home.  Of course they thought it was horribly ugly and we couldn't let it be discarded, so we dragged it to Shoestring and Mr Shoestring very cleverly used some solar garden lights and converted it to be an outdoor chandelier.  The weather has been horrible; it's been the wettest spring we can remember and we despair of ever having outdoor evening meals but if the weather ever does oblige us with some sunshine and warmth we will happily sit under our solar powered outdoor chandelier.  The lights stay strong for a long time after sundown, the birds who spend their nights in the garden may have been a bit perplexed to begin with but it doesn't seem to have scared them away.  They have been enjoying splashing about in the birdbath, which is odd as there is so much water in the puddles and all around the district.

Roll on summer is all I can say, warm days  and nights spent outdoors.  I've found a few old straw hats which I'd like to decorate for Art Deco Weekend in Napier next February and want to experiment with the best way to colour them to match deco costumes, but it's proving a bit scary; after all it would be a shame to ruin them.  One day soon I'll just have to bite the bullet and take to one of them with either water colours (but imagine if it rained, which it always seems to be doing, and the colour ran all over a person's hair and face and clothing) or maybe watered down acrylic paint.  It will be a challenge, at any rate.  Some lengths of op shop silk are there, ready for making evening wear. it's just a question of getting started instead of leaving things until the week before, which is my usual approach.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Filled With Enthusiasm

Yet another couple of weeks passed before we were able to get back to Shoestring and it might be these periods of absence, but for whatever reason everything at Shoestring Cottage seemed particularly enjoyable and relaxing this weekend.  Last weekend I went to see Giselle with my dear mama and two of my girls and what a magnificent production that was!  I was so inspired that I decided not to give up my ballet lessons after all, but to persevere, and fully expect in the fullness of time to be hailed as one of the leading lights of the ballet world.  I even cut out one of the picture from my programme to put with the two little old swan lake scenes I once got at an op shop.

This weekend was the weekend for the monthly Matamata markets by a happy coincidence, and what a lot of wonderful treasures we found there.  It might be just that we have had an enforced break away from op shopping but I was very excited to find a little plate to add to my Royal Visit Collection, which now is officially a collection as it has three pieces.  

The other souvenir piece I found was this little vase celebrating the "new" Auckland Town Hall, which was opened on 14 December 1911 and apparently looks a lot like the Brixton Town Hall.  It was designed to fit its wedge shaped plot and even now is used by Aucklanders, and is very much beloved by us.  

The vase has that pearly, shell-like quality which so much New Zealand souvenir ware is made with and it's going to live with the Te Aroha souvenir ware unless I find other Auckland commemorative pieces for it to cuddle up to, all in good time though.  

Another great find was this special raffia hat.  I am beginning to hope that Esme may not be perennially displeased, but that rather she is just awaiting the perfect hat and I fancy I may be getting a bit closer here because I think she looks slightly less annoyed than she usually does, though still a bit sad and down in the dumps.  The beauty of this hat is that the brim is not symmetrical, it is smaller at the back giving a kind of halo effect.  We are planning a day at the races for summer time, when all the attendees will bring a car boot picnic complete with the correct type of picnic foods (bacon and egg pie, lamingtons, asparagus rolls and so on) and we all will get dressed up in our race day finery, and I think this hat may be the starting point for my costume.  Often it's good to start with the hat and work the rest of the costume around it, or you end up with a nice outfit but no hat to match, which is indeed wrong on so many levels.  Being cream this hat looks summery and it shouldn't be difficult to find gloves to go with it either.  

These wonderful publications will give me a lot to think about, the Summer Fashions 1946 1947 is by the Australian Home Journal and has a good selection of dresses and clothes for children and teenagers as well as women.  

But the one about millinery was fascinating too.  It was published by the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences of Scranton, Pa (I think that must be Pennsylvania) in 1921 and was full of information about the various hats a well dressed woman might need for special occasions including 

the sailor hat


and this mysterious creation, which apparently is an Oriental headdress for a fancy-dress, concert or tableau.  

Even the breakfast caps were inspired though I must admit I began to feel as though a person could spend a lot of time changing their hat if they were to take this booklet too seriously.  It did give me a lot to think over as far as trimming hats for art deco weekend goes though.

It wasn't all flea marketing this weekend though, in between times I finally managed to make the tulip needlepoint up into a cushion and I'm very pleased with the result, despite the fact that I lost the pale yellow remnant of velvet I had intended to use for the background, and also lost the edge trimming and had to purchase it all over again.  No doubt now that the cushion is finally complete they will both resurface and I will feel duty bound to find some other purpose to put them to. 

I was very pleased to find these old buttons which I will reuse on an art deco costume or four.  In inspecting the back of the card with the white buttons still attached I was rather alarmed to see that the buttons were made from "the finest urea" (who knew that urea came in different degrees of quality?) amongst other things.  They were guaranteed to be "boilproof, ironproof, fadeproof and unaffected by dry cleaning",  so that good quality urea obviously made a big difference to the finished product.  

Of course it was essential to make a start again on the garden now that hopefully the spring is really here and we won't be getting any late frosts.  I am very pleased to say that Mr Shoestring has helped me out in my plans for the most decorated garden in the country because he went along with my fanciful idea of putting solar lights into an old light fitting which we were given, and now that he has finished it and hung it in the garden I am thrilled with the result and expect that there will be a lot of light pollution in the night sky around Shoestring Cottage in the future.  It looks so pretty and I'm sure we will spend many a happy evening under the lights once the summer comes.  Next weekend when it is twilight I will take a photo so you can see the effect, which is sure to be very pretty.