Monday, June 27, 2011

The End Of The Water Crisis

Mr Shoestring may have to give his green overalls (or "ovaries" as he will insist on calling them) a well earned rest after this weekend.  Still not satisfied with the water pressure after the installation of his strange pump device (which it must be said usually comes on just as one is about to step out of the shower), this weekend he dug a trench through the front lawn and put in a new pipe to conduct the water.  Needless to say this involved turfing out many of the carefully nurtured plants in the front border, which flew up in the air like so much confetti as he wielded his spade
The Old Water Pipe

I began to wonder if he had finally become unhinged by the ongoing battle with the water, but eventually he prevailed.  Now he finally has the water pressure he has desired for so long.  I must admit though that I am a little concerned for his mental health.  I fear that he may lose the will to live; he has finally achieved his highest ambition and what will he focus his energy and attention on?  I will just have to think of some more tasks to keep him occupied, that will be the best plan.  He will thank me one day, you can be sure of it.

Though the weather forecast was for a bleak Saturday it turned out to be very mild and sunny.  We walked to the netball courts to see the young Miss Peaceable play.  What a star!  She shot nine goals for her team and we are convinced she will be in The Silver Ferns one day.  Having spent all those years ferrying our own four children to football, netball, water polo, dance classes and so forth we felt very nostalgic and sentimental to see all the young netballers giving their all on the courts.  How crazy are we?

Our little town also had the historic rugby match this weekend where the two local teams (who share the same playing field as their home ground) had their annual grudge match.  As I know little and care less about rugby I didn't go to watch, but it was great to think that there are still these local games all round the country where the town turns out to cheer on their "boys" in these days of professional rugby and huge salaries.  I could hear them all from our garden where I was doing battle with the oxalis.  What a close match!  12 points to 11, and obviously a very exciting game from the sound of the cheers and groans coming from the footy field.
Gay Border Camellia

There is very little flowering in the garden.  I bought this camellia a few weeks ago and am pleased to find that it has a luscious scent.  I liked the description of its blossoms but have always been disappointed by supposedly scented camellias in the past.  This one is called Gay Border(!).  The scent is lemony and quite strong.

Now I have to admit to being rather plebian where flowers are concerned.  Give me the bold, the brash, those flashy flowers with obvious charms!  I often read gardening books where authors sing the praises of shy retiring flowers which one must inspect closely (usually on one's hands and knees) to appreciate.  Give me the lillies, roses and orchids any day which demand our attention and have assertive natures and strong perfumes!  But I couldn't resist putting some little snowdrops in this pretty cup my mum gave me and was very pleased with them.  Plus which let's face it, I'm not exactly spoiled for choice at the moment.

A Friend In The Garden

All day a fantail followed me around the gardening, fluttering so close that it sometimes touched me.  It is  tempting to think that they are friendly and wanting human company but apparently (so those in the know delight in pointing out), the reason for this behaviour is that they want to catch any insects which may be disturbed while we are gardening.  Yet another disappointment in the garden but I secretly cling to my belief that they like to be around people.

Antique Shades Pansies

These pansies are in the "antique shades" range and I much prefer them to the single coloured ones I planted earlier in the season.  In yet another gardening book (why do we torture ourselves in this way?) I read one author describe how two different types of pansies planted in modest numbers had created offspring in a myriad of hues when they went to seed.  Why is it that my pansies only very grudgingly produce the occasional bloom, die quickly and don't self seed, never mind all this wanton cross pollinating?

 Mr Shoestring had to travel to far flung places around the country this week and brought back these two wonderful fur stoles for art deco weekend.  Isn't he well trained?  I was so impressed.

 He also bought this pretty pink glass plate to add to the pink glass collection which is well on its way now.

But in case you think I have had things all my own way this week, look at this beautiful Gladstone bag which my mum Bobbie (or Wobbly as she is known by young children) found for Mr Shoestring.  It even has luggage tickets on the end which record its travels around New Zealand.  When we polish it up we will carefully polish around the tickets so as not to damage them.  It puts me in mind of travelling down the main trunk line, stopping for a pie in Taumarunui and having a stewed cup of tea in one of those New Zealand Rail mugs which were virtually indestructible.  Ah bless!  Happy days.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Pre-Dawn Recital

I would count myself as a bird lover.  I think that there is an element of envy and admiration in this; imagine being able to fly, it must be wonderful.  I pampered the white pigeons we used to keep, and the unusual breeds of poultry and their fluffy chicks too.  But I have to say my love of all things avian has been put the test recently.  At Shoestring there is cacophany of sound every morning, and when I say "morning" I don't mean at dawn.  I think it must be about 3am when my feathered friend starts the morning concert.  (I won't turn on the light to discover the time because I imagine it would give my torturer a thrill to see how successful his campaign is.  I imagine him out there with a little bird megaphone, peeping towards the bedroom window and sniggering in a birdy, beady eyed kind of way.)  And it's not as though the sound is a pleasant one either.  This bird is just warming up for a day of warbling and does it by practising all the most basic notes in groups of two to five at a time before moving on to the next note.  There are clicks and gargling warbles and other odd sounds also.  And the volume!  It is incredible.  I imagine living with an opera singer must be similar - you have to endure the nuts and bolts hours of practise before you can hear a single heavenly aria and there is no escaping that.  I say "he" when I speak of my torturer because I have concluded that he must be the top bird in these parts.  There are hundreds of birds who nest in the ivy growing up the walls in the back garden, so there is no shortage of birds; therefore why does only one start the day so early and in such a self important, puffed up manner?  Surely it must be a territorial declaration of superiority?  And I would like to know what sort of bird he might be, but it is pitch black so no chance of discovering the species.  I am picking starling though.  Thrushes are a more retiring, pleasant kind of bird. 

Now that I have got that rant off my chest, what else has been happening?  The weather was not conducive to gardening this weekend but we did manage to get outdoors in between showers and plant some more perennials and cuttings.  One of our daughters came over with a couple of friends and they all went for a long walk up the mountain and then a soak in the hot pools.  We filled them up with bacon soup from the ever-useful crockpot before they went home, and it was lovely to see them all. 

On the charity shop front it was thrilling to find these two fur jackets to wear to the upcoming art deco weekend in Napier.  With three of us to outfit we will be able to swap them around and make the most of them.  I think the one on the right may be rabbit.  But the one on the left is more "authentic" art deco and a far superior sort of fur!  It even has that odd piquant odour which no amount of airing ever seems to remove.

Also this landscape painting ($3) has started a new collection plan - the aim being to have a wall covered in landscape paintings from charity shops.  As the walls at Shoestring are pretty small it may not be as ambitious as it sounds, though sometimes a little more than $3 may be needed. 

But for some reason this little jug ($1.70) thirlled me the most.

When I saw it I was reminded of another one I already had, but they are not exactly identical in their dimensions as I discovered when I bore my treasure home.

It says, "A Present From Weston Supermare" in golden lettering which has almost worn off.  It is very pretty but I must try to find out where Weston Supermare is - what a strange name, I imagined it must be some sort of seaside spa or resort town in England but I'm not sure.  It will look very nice with roses in it in the spring time - if spring ever comes that is.  And I wonder if the torturer bird will arise even earlier then?  I may have to invest in some earplugs to take to Shoestring Cottage.  Imagine going to the peace of the country and having to take your earplugs with you!

And the lovely Mrs Peaceable gave Mr Shoestring a clever candle snuffer this weekend.  It is hinged and flexible to make it easier to reach and extinguish the candles.  We were sharing delicious coffee and macadamia nut brittle at the local cafe when she presented him with the snuffer.  She must have noticed last weekend that he could not light the candles at the front door because they were just a little too high up for him to snuff out at the end of the evening - hence this lovely snuffer will ensure a more romantic entrance to the cottage next time Mr and Mrs Peaceable come round for dinner.  Bless her.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Because Nice Matters

Clear skies on a winter's evening

Now that we have the little bolthole of Shoestring Cottage to escape to in the weekends I fear I am turning into some strange domestic creature who derives great pleasure from pressing and washing things, folding them up and placing them in their allotted homes.  Even setting the table for two and putting out the pretty china gives me a big thrill, how odd.  Going into my very own sewing room and inspecting its contents can keep me happy for a good while and sweeping the front porch also has its peculiar charms.  After a bit of thought I have come to the conclusion that the reason for all this domestic happiness must be that there is no pressure to get things done in a particular time period; if I want to I can spend all weekend on these soothing activities.  It is satisfying to have the time to spend on these tasks and enjoy the end result without having to dash on to the next job.  And nice does matter, it makes everyday occasions more enjoyable. 
 Baby's tears plant happy in the window

Last Saturday night Mr and Mrs Peaceable came round for dinner and setting the table with a damask cloth, putting out the old napkins with their napkin rings and lighting the candles was a very enjoyable way of getting “in the mood” for entertaining.  We use my mum’s old cutlery set.  It does need replating but I like the slightly worn and battered appearance of the pieces and there is always the “good luck” knife to look out for.  (One was lost when I was a child and the replacement was slightly different to the other knives.  We children used to squabble over who got the “good luck” knife.)  It only took a few minutes to set up the room but it looked so pretty and welcoming.  Sometimes people remark to me that they don’t have time for “all that stuff”, but if we think of the amount of time we can spend lolling on sofas watching rubbish TV a bit of time and effort spent on making our surroundings more pleasant isn’t really wasted.  And using old family china and cutlery is rewarding too.  One of my friends has a special gravy spoon which has been used by generations of her family.  It is worn down with decades of use but, that all adds to its charm and it has so many happy memories of shared family meals attached to it as well.  

 Cream jug cover with intricate crocheted tea cup - who went to all that trouble to decorate their nest?

This flower is from an amazing succulent we treasure which blossoms only occasionally; the blooms are enormous and have the most heavenly perfume.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Ever Increasing Wardrobe Department

When we first went to art deco weekend about 10 years ago our costumes were rather slapdash and we cringe when we look back at those first photos, even Lady Raglan and The Dancing Queen (who now sport spectacular fox furs).  Over time we have gradually increased our costumes and The Dancing Queen even went to supreme lengths in bringing a beautiful cloche hat all the way back from Greece, carefully stowing it in the overhead storage lockers on planes and ensuring it was treated with the utmost respect.  Imagine how cruel we all were to her when she proudly brought it out on its maiden voyage and discovered that it was adored by a passing fly!  The fly would not leave the hat alone and we all speculated wildly as to where the hat may have been to become so attractive to flies.  We did have to admit that it was a gorgeous hat though; perhaps we just a little jealous.

The surprising thing about all this attention to costumes is that once word gets around that you are a mad keen collector, delectable items come your way from unexpected sources.  I am putting in some photos of the latest arrivals at our place.  These clothes are beautifully made and the attention to detail is exquisite.   They were kindly given to me by a friend and belonged to her mother. 

Apart from the dresses, coats, jackets and boleros there was a box of gloves including elbow length cream kid and a beautiful brown leather pair still in their original cellophane wrapper. 

 They will surely have to go to winter art deco weekend and make their debut.  The dark green dress is coveted by daughter number three who plans to wear it to a ball this year, and the silver and pale green one is surprisingly heavy, having metres of fabric in its skirt and underskirt. 

A lovely selection of vintage embroidery cottons and silks was in the treasure trove too.  They will be used in the latest crazy quilt.  They came in their own cardboard box which had been carefully covered with patterned paper.  It seems right to use old cottons which have been picked out with care by some former needlewoman but not used, will finally fulfil their purpose.   

And as a footnote to this story, there is a fur coat on its way so I will not be cold in Napier!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chintz Charming - Or, Some Day My Chintz Will Come

Spider webs adorning the front verge

Front Porch - Refuge From Kitchen Alterations!

Floral Slim PickingsThis Month

Decades ago I bought a pretty piece of china which had an all over colourful small floral pattern.  Something about it charmed me; the bright colours and the small scale of the design seemed so optimistic and cheerful.  I was sorry to find that as time went by it became too expensive to collect (or too expensive for me anyway), and it didn't turn up very often in thrift shops.  But whenever I spotted a piece at a bargain price I bought it, even if sometimes it had a small chip or crack. 

Apparently this china, which is called "chintz" is very collectible and its popularty has been ever increasing in the last few years.  (Just my luck, as Adrian Mole would say.)  The word "chintz" comes from the Indian word chintes, which was used to describe colourful patterned fabrics with birds and flowers printed onto cotton and exported to England from the late 1600s onwards. 

The chintz china we love so much was made for the mass market and intended for everyday use, which probably explains why so much of it is still around.  It was produced from the 1920s until the late 1960s and many different companies made their own patterns and versions.  Making each piece of china needed a lot of patience and skill because the designs were transferred by hand from lithographs to each piece of china.  It was important to match the joins where the sheet of lithograph paper came together in different places around the piece and if you look carefully you can see the joins.  Even the names of the designs are evocative of happy times.  There are "Briar Rose", "Rosetime", "Summertime", "Sweet Pea" and "Primula" just for starters.  Some companies did not stamp the bottom of their pieces with names more recently names have been given to them by collectors so they can be identified. 

The possibilities for collecting this china are endless.  Some people may collect say teapots in as many different patterns as they can find, while others concentrate on one favourite pattern.  Other people (like me) just snap up what they see and can afford.  This week at the hospice shop I was thrilled to find the pretty little yellow jug in one of the most frequently seen patterns.  It has no chips and I love the combination of yellow and pink colours.  Until now I have never had a jug, most of my china is cups, saucers or side plates so this is a big step forwards for my collection.  Isn't it lovely?  One day I think I will have to decorate a room around these pieces of china, but first of all we had better master the kitchen refit!

Kitchen On Moving Day - Kitchen, What Kitchen?
New Lining Timber
Kitchen Before Painting
Kitchen After Painting
Speaking of that, we have made great steps forward this long Queen's Birthday weekend.  We are pondering what to do about the floor; we will do the bathroom, laundry and toilet floor at the same time as the kitchen floor but I think Mr Shoestring should have a bit of a break before he takes on this task.  Above is the progress on the kitchen, it was great to put everything away again and not have clouds of wood shavings and tools all through the cottage!  In the picture above the kitchen cupboards look almost black, but they are a rather deep green shade.