Sunday, May 29, 2011

Water - Who Needs It Anyway?

On Saturday morning Mr Shoestring leapt out of bed and donned his fetching green overalls.  He crawled under the cottage and spent some considerable time fixing the water system.  Imagine his disappointment when it transpired that now, though the cold water was working, the hot water was not!  Yes my dears, it was yet another plumbing disaster for Mr Shoestring and I believe his spirit has been broken.  He did not swear, he did not turn to sports radio, he merely murmured, "Oh dear, oh dear" and looked sad and dejected.  Eventually (after a few trips to the local hardware shop which must be noticing a spike in its profits since we bought Shoestring Cottage) the problem was fixed, but it set him well behind schedule and when he did the painting in the kitchen the paint would not dry.  Finally he turned his attention to the repainting of the chest of drawers, at which time a veritable swarm of midges flew into the wet paint and caused even more consternation.  He got there in the end, but it took until the very end of the weekend and I think the lustre may have gone from Shoestring Cottage for Mr Shoestring for the time being.  Poor thing. 

I got lots done in the garden this weekend, seedlings planted and weeding done.  Though there is one thing which is bothering me, and that is the fact that I foolishly planted some Jerusalem artichokes.  I just could not resist the offer of some and though I should know from past experience that they may be more of a curse than a blessing the deed is done now; they are tucked up under the ground just waiting to burst forth and overtake the whole garden at the front of the picket fence.  The last time I grew these little devils I was warned about their invasive tendencies, but the positives seemed to outweigh the negatives.  An easily grown vegetable which needed no care, had lovely sunflower-like flowers and would provide masses of tubers for eating.  The first season when I harvested them I wanted Mr Shoestring to like them.  I found a Jamie Oliver recipe which did turn out to be delicious (I seem to recall a lot of cream), and I warned Mr Shoestring that the little artichokes had a reputation for causing excess wind in some people and that he might exercise caution on his first tasting.  He must have thought I was being unnecessarily cautious, because he sneaked out of bed in the night and polished off the rest of the dish.  Needless to say there were disastrous results.  He confided in me afterwards that first of all he was frightened he might die; then he eventually came to wish that he might die, such was his agony.  We tried to remove the artichokes from the garden but every little remaining scrap grew with ever increasing vigour and in the end it was only when we put in a swimming pool and covered them with a deep layer of concrete that they were eradicated.  (And even then I had a few anxious moments when I imagined them bursting through the concrete around the pool.)  So why have I made the same mistake all over again?  I could well spend the next few years trying to dig out the tubers and they virtually impossible to get rid of.  I suppose it is just good to cram in as much as possible into the garden in my book, and deal with the consequences later on.  Foolish, foolish.

Here is the chest of drawers after its facelift.  I am thrilled with the result, the colour is the same as the shade we used for repainting the bed ends and the little drawer pulls are so sparkly and pretty.  All in all a great success, even allowing for the disastrous yellow colour we had last weekend.

And also this weekend Mrs Peaceable gave me two lovely wooden curtain poles.  We have been searching everywhere for cheap wooden curtain poles and one weekend Mr Shoestring nearly had his hands on some at Habitat For Humanity.  Unfortunately he wasn't quite quick enough and he was pipped at the post.  Now he is like a dog which remembers where it found a juicy bone, and keeps returning in the hope that he will find the perfect pole.  No luck so far!

These pretty red candles cheered up the front porch this weekend, just what we need when the weather is getting colder and the days are so short.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Step Forward Two Steps Back

Well, it didn’t turn out to be a very productive weekend at Shoestring.  The weather was cold and the paint would not set when we tried painting indoors, so we did not achieve much in that direction. 

Then there was the problem of the water leak.  I was sure I could hear water running under the house, even when we were not using the water.  Eventually I prevailed upon Mr Shoestring to come and listen to the sound and there were immediate investigations, resulting in the discovery that yes indeed there was a leak.  This necessitated a lot of crawling around under the house and trips to the hardware shop for fittings, turning on and off the water at the front gate and so forth.  Things got so bad that Mr Shoestring became irate and had to listen to sports radio to calm himself.  (This is a very bad sign and I have warned him in the past not to listen to sports radio.  I have a theory that it causes erectile dysfunction and thinning of the hair, because I have noticed that the sports radio station is constantly advertising products and services to deal with these two problems, therefore it seems likely that the sports radio is causing the problems!  Brilliant deduction, yes?)  The leak was never fixed and we eventually had to shut off the water and leave the cottage for another week without water.

I had been fired up with enthusiasm for my latest project, sanding down an old chest of drawers and painting it.  All went well until the paint went on (outdoors and with spray paint it was able to dry).  Alas!  The “cream” shade we selected turned out to be a buttery yellow!  There was nothing to be done but continue with the painting and then put another layer over the top.  Hopefully the next colour will be more pleasing.  

All was not lost though.  On the gardening front I found two lovely camellias, a clematis which promises to be scented, a rhododendron and a phaseolus (snail vine) at the flea market.  Needless to say they were all at bargain basement prices and they have all found places in the garden.  And in the process of doing this I found the tag off one of the roses which is growing over the entranceway at the front of the cottage.  It turns out to be Paul Transom, a rose I have never grown before.  The caterpillars are still feasting on the brassicas but I don’t think there were as many this week – I only say this because I could find none, but there was plenty of evidence they had been there.  Nasty things.  But the broad beans are romping ahead, also plenty of parsley, chives, silver beet, spinach and lettuce.    

And here are some lovely pieces of china kindly donated to me by Elle Upstairs who is always divesting herself of possessions – what a paragon of virtue is she, I wish I could do the same but it does not seem to be in my nature. 

The big news of the week is that there is going to be a mini art deco weekend in Napier in July so we are dusting off our furs and getting ready for that.  I have somehow brainwashed number two and number three daughters into the art deco obsession and they going to attend, in fact Tessa has found her first two furs to wear.  A coat and a stole, all in the same op shop outing.  How clever is she!  She also found me my third piece of depression glass, so now I officially have a collection.  And for the princely sum of $2.  And on the same expedition she found this lovely brass vessel which will shortly become the home for a plant.  I just have to get my strength up and polish it.  Actually Tessa has such an eagle eye that she may begin to pose competition on op shop outings – I can foresee some nasty altercations if she carries on in this way.  Luckily so far we haven’t been searching out the same things.  

P.S. Even worse -Mr Shoestring wasn't very helpful in loading the pictures for the blog last night ,and Mrs Shoestring threatened to wipe out the blog this morning, so I've posted on her
Watch out for a later edit though!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Death and Destruction at Shoestring Cottage

There has been a plague of green caterpillars on my brassicas and I have been spending a lot of time on search and destroy missions.  Each time I think they have been despatched I am disappointed to come back later only to find the plants further denuded.  Some of the poor leaves look like very fine green lace.  The wretched creatures have become so bold (or perhaps short of food after eating all the available brassicas), that they have now moved to the rocket plants.  Mrs Peaceable offered the only consolation when she suggested that the rocket plants would taste peppery and perhaps they will end up with a bad case of indigestion after eating them, but I think we are clutching at straws here.  And they are so cunningly camouflaged with their perfectly matching green against the leaves!  My glasses get all steamed up in my frustration as I try to locate them.  And I can testify that coffee grounds do not seem to deter them in the least. 

(I should not have admitted my passion for killing caterpillars.  Lady Raglan already has a very low opinion of my activities in this area, having found out years ago about my habit of going out at night time with a torch and killing snails in the garden.  To make things more challenging I would try to set a new record each night for the most snails despatched and Lady Raglan (being of a delicate constitution) found this gruesome.  If she finds out about the caterpillars she may ban me from Raglan Castle.)

On a positive note in the garden this weekend a vague kind of plan is finally forming as to what to put in the formerly overgrown jungle at the back of the cottage.  Lots of scented and white plants for a start, so in went a daphne and two gardenias.  Also a couple of pretty camellias and the inevitable bags of coffee grounds spread around the place. 

The finishing timber went around the windows in the kitchen and the undercoat went onto the walls.  Mr Shoestring ground his teeth and muttered away to himself most of the weekend, but persevered manfully. He did look less than enthusiastic when I made some suggestions about improvements in the laundry after the work in the kitchen is completed, however.  (I must remember not to mention these ideas until the kitchen is installed and he has had a little break.)  We took delivery of the "new" hob (thank you Trade Me), and it fits perfectly and works very well.  The green and cream colour scheme is all go and hopefully we will get the paint soon.  

The highlight of the weekend was a 30 year nursing class reunion.  After an initial burst of enthusiasm I had been rather dreading the reunion; just because we had nursing in common 30 years ago, would we have anything in common so much later?  But it turned out to be a wonderful experience, I reconnected with so many resourceful, interesting and generous friends.  Many of them had branched out into all kinds of diverse endeavours and there were some fascinating stories to hear.  It was a truly uplifting experience.

Because the weather was so horrible I spent some happy hours in my sewing room and got three more crazy quilt squares ready for embroidering, made a dress and trimmed a hat for art deco weekend.  I couldn't resist putting a new canvaswork project on the frame I sanded down and restained last weekend, all in the spirit of using up all the wools which have accumulated over the years.  (My friend Sparker who lives abroad confided that when she saw a photo of my sewing room on the blog, she thought it was a shop!  The shame of it all, I resolved I must do better at cutting back on the hoard of treasure in the sewing room.)

And speaking of Sparker, after a holiday in Europe she sent me this wonderful bookmark of the Ampelmann (which I had never heard of).  After the reunification of Germany this East German "Walk/Don't Walk" symbol was nearly lost, presumably because the West German symbol was going to be used instead.  It is very dear to the hearts of the population of the former East Germany.  I think there may even be an entire museum devoted to it.  Isn't it strange how sometimes it is these small idiosyncratic things which people remember and love?  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Riding Skirt Revitalised

This black riding style skirt came from a second hand clothing store and has been very useful for the last couple of years on cold winter mornings when I had no inspirations as to what to wear.  With a pair of comfortable flat black military style boots it almost feels like I am striding off to work in my PJs, very comfortable but not too hot in airconditioning.  But it did need a bit of a boost to add some colour to the winter wardrobe, so here it is.

First of all I got an old woollen blanket and dyed it green.  Then I drew some templates of curving vine shapes on paper, pinned them to the blanket and cut out several to make “stems” around the bottom of the skirt.  They were appliquéd in place with blanket stitch, making two curlicues at the back where the birds now sit and two at the front also for extra interest.  Then the fun really started.  Using pieces of  felt and woollen squares I cut out varied flower, leaf and bird shapes and appliquéd them onto the curving tendrils.  The leaves were given veins with couched threads and the flowers had detail added with French knots, satin stitch, pistil stitch and split stitch.  The birds just needed a couple of beads for eyes. 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable project and very simple to achieve, all in all a fun way to inject life and longevity into an old favourite and colour into the winter wardrobe.     

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chaos and Confusion in the Kitchen

The kitchen on moving day

Well my dears, we have been busy in the kitchen over the last three weekends, attempting to install our “new” hand-me-down kitchen.  Of course these things never go quite according to plan.  I was acting as Mr Shoestring’s builder’s labourer and discovered it required a talent for mind reading as well as the usual attributes such as physical strength.  Mr Shoestring tends to demand that one should “get the thing” and one is left thinking, “Thing, thing, now which thing might that be I wonder?”  Also he can become rather brusque and short tempered and bark out orders such as, “I need the parrot beaks” at which point one becomes flustered and dashes about inspecting every available piece of equipment looking for anything which vaguely resembles a parrot’s beak.  And then there were the occasions when I thought a hefty push was in order whereas Mr Shoestring was requiring a pull instead, or a tilt to the left rather than a jerk to the right.  Once we had lifted the range in and out of place four times in order to get it in the correct position I began to lose interest in the project, I must admit, but things are slowly taking shape.  Sadly the gas hob is designed for piped natural gas and we are going to have to either re-jet it or acquire another hob.  Mr Shoestring obtained one from TradeMe but it turned out not to fit into the “hole” in the bench top, so we are back to the drawing board where the hob is concerned.   
The counter tops are a buttery cream colour and the cupboard doors and drawers are a rather strident shade of turquoise.  We toyed with the idea of painting all the drawers and cupboard fronts cream to match the counter tops but have now come up with a plan to paint them a 1940s shade of green instead.  We have a set of enamelled canisters in a similar colour which will sit on the bench, also a green cast iron pot stand and a whole set of this crockery with a gardening theme.  Somehow this particular shade for me epitomises the charm and nostalgia of the 1940s and it fits in perfectly with the “make do and mend” philosophy of  Shoestring Cottage.   The flooring will have to be replaced and perhaps we will eventually put down cream and green tiles but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. 

On a different note, I am pleased to report that our hat model has now acquired a name.  After careful thought and much discussion at stitching group one night we decided on Esme, which is a little sombre and suits her very well.  Actually Esme has a new hat to model for you this week, and I fancy she is wearing a slightly more cheerful expression to show her approval.  Rather later than the cloche it has a more 1930s feel and perhaps she favours this slightly more modern look.  This hat was a great bargain, it cost me 50 cents at the church shop and will hopefully travel to art deco weekend next year when it has a new trim on the band. 

 I also acquired this little purse – not too bad at $1.50.
But the piece of costumery which has me most excited this week is this fabulous pair of mint condition tangerine kid gloves, which will form the basis of an entirely new costume.  Picture a green silk 1920s type outfit with orange appliqué of suitably “moderne” motifs such as ziggurats or rising suns.  The same motifs will trim a hat and I am determined to acquire a long string of amber beads and some amber drop earrings to complete the ensemble.  Green suede shoes are in the wardrobe department, in readiness. 

We found this crinoline lady apron on the same day as the tangerine gloves – the thrift shop gods were smiling on me that day.  She will grace the kitchen when I have completed the stitching needed.  She has a rather odd expression and I am not sure what thoughts may be going through her mind. 

Another thrilling acquisition (for Mr Shoestring at any rate) was this vintage (red of course) chopper.  I bought it as a present for him when I found the tangerine gloves – it seemed sad for him to miss out. 

 And how about this whole roll of burgundy coloured thread for stitching on the new crazy quilt for the princely sum of $1.50?

Last but not least, this print was languishing in a Salvation Army shop.  It is by Adrian Allinson who designed  posters for London Transport in the 1930s and if you look carefully you can see it has an Airedale Terrier in the right foreground, our favourite type of dog. 

 Bliss on the thrift shopping front in recent times. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Peaceable Kingdom


Not far out of town live Farmer and Mrs Peaceable and their five children.  (Yes, five, I know!)  They are all long, lean and straight of limb and they live off the land.  They all have ferociously blue eyes.  In fact it was because of Farmer and Mrs Peaceable that we came to discover our little town.  They had moved back to the Farmer Peaceable’s family farm and when we first went to visit we were surprised to find a place where time had turned back and there was an abundance of villas and bungalows and a large chiming town clock.  We were charmed and visited as often as we could. 

Farmer and Mrs Peaceable grow their own potatoes, pumpkins and corn, paddocks of produce in fact.  They also love to fish off the coast and if you visit at the right time you will feast on the freshest and most delicious fish ever.  Of course they have a stupendous vegetable garden with enormous rhubarb leaves – so huge that there seems no point in growing gunneras, these rhubarb leaves are just as big. 

The sheep live with the pigs and one sheep in fact seems to believe itself to be a pig because it has spent time with the pigs from a very young age.  There are the most beautiful and colourful roosters and chickens, also Guinea Fowl.  There is a horse or two (Mrs Peaceable hopes Farmer Peaceable may not have noticed the latest addition) and the lovely Floss who is a Miniature Fox Terrier. 

Farmer Peaceable has harvested wood from the farm so that when he and Mrs Peaceable are ready to do their renovations they will be able to use timber grown on their own land, which seems to me to be a very special thing.  One day when Farmer Peaceable was felling trees he found a fledgling magpie which had fallen out of its nest when the trees came down.  He brought it home and it was duly named Patrick and hand reared, becoming so tame that it would swoop down onto approaching visitors, wanting to land on their forearms.  (This was a little disconcerting if you arrived knowing nothing of Patrick’s existence, it must be admitted.)  Patrick would sit in his special tree outside the kitchen window and demand to come inside when he believed it was time for a meal, calling softly and crooning after he was full.  He would follow Mrs Peaceable around when she was gardening, intently inspecting the earth for any freshly uncovered creatures as she weeded.  Floss was a little put out at first, but soon came to accept Patrick and his antics. 

Now many of the farmers of my acquaintance have a certain ruthless streak where the use of land is concerned, but I was surprised to find that it is not always the case at the Peaceable Kingdom.  The daughter of the household was given a beautiful black rabbit as a fifth birthday present.  After two years in captivity Rosie was released by her admiring owner.  Some farmers would have taken their gun and despatched Rosie, but not so at The Peaceable Kingdom where Rosie was allowed to roam free.  Rosie discovered a taste for “a bit of rough” and now she has a consort known as Mr West, a white pelted rogue with a ripped ear but a certain dashing charm, who appears to have fathered a large number of Rosie’s babies. 
The Irresistible Mr West and Rosie  - All tired out

Now when you look out from the windows at The Peaceable Kingdom you can sometimes see a range of multicoloured rabbits cropping the grass and enjoying the late sunshine.  Life is lush at The Peaceable Kingdom indeed.