Monday, October 31, 2011

Lord and Lady Raglan And Their Lavish Hospitality

This weekend we went to visit Lord and Lady Raglan and avail ourselves of their generous hospitality.  On the way we saw for the first time the new wind generators which looked like a whole selection of sculptures on the skyline; how beautiful they are.

The Squire and his good lady wife came along too, and what a good catch up we had.  Lord and Lady Raglan have made extensive additions to their home and we were suitably impressed by the new luxurious accommodation.  Lord Raglan tried to impress us all with a tiny patch of grass he had sewn in his back garden and enclosed with string to prevent damage - but look at the daisies in the lawn, what a luxuriant crop!  For some reason Lord Raglan will not allow any mowing of the grass, he seems to feel it will damage the spring growth.   

 And as for the oxalis, I think his collection would even rival mine. 

The pohutukawa trees were already in early flower and alive with tuis feasting on the nectar, but the tuis were too cunning to be snapped by my camera.  

 First pohutukawa blossoms of the year

Elusive tui

The monarch butterflies were basking in the warm spring sunshine. 

Lord and Lady Raglan have a little dog named Max.  He used to be my enemy and I spent many years mocking him – mainly because he tortured my lovely Airedale terrier, Bramble, by constantly leaping up and hanging off his beard.  Max is an ex pound dog and knows every trick in the book to gain sympathy from new acquaintances.  He has a clever way of limping along on alternate legs and also trembles and shivers, which has sympathetic strangers leaping to the conclusion that he has been hit by a car or experienced some other form of trauma, and they usually dote on him and offer him all kinds of treats when in fact there is nothing wrong with him.  Max is very old now, going blind and deaf and he and I have a much more friendly relationship than in the past. 

Max tries to look noble, but we know better

He still has lots of tricks up his canine sleeves though, including making his way to the butcher shop and begging for bones.  Sadly he sometimes forgets his way and has even ended up being locked in the back of the library, but always (so far) finds his way home.  Actually he is rather free with his affections and has been known to run away with strangers for several days at a time if tempted by good food.  Here he is in the arms of the adoring Mrs Squires, who has a softer and more forgiving heart than I!

We did get in some time at Shoestring before heading off to Raglan.  We could not resist calling in at the local volunteer fire brigade's garage sale and found this spinning wheel, which cost $5.

The interesting marbled fabric in this silk blouse will be cut up to go into the rainbow crazy quilt and after I saw how much the price of silk fabric has skyrocketed lately it was a snip at $2.

I try to befriend the wild cat who inhabits our garden - not with very much success so far, but I flatter myself that I am making progress. 

The garden looked quite dry and I don’t think there had been any rain at Shoestring in the past week.  Some of the roses which were overgrown last year and struggling to survive have done well with more light and less competition and though I cannot identify any of them exactly they are looking very pretty and much happier. 

Lots of self sown aquilegias of different colours are blooming and with any luck they will all cross together to give me some interesting new shades next year.

On the front porch is a potted jasmine which was taken from the rampaging specimen I had to remove from the side of the house.  Though it is pronounced to be a noxious weed now it surely cannot do too much harm enclosed in a pot? 

It will be a year this month since we bought Shoestring and having lived with the garden for a year I have some idea of what I want to achieve there.  Having such a tiny garden is going to be a boon in many ways, since there are usually only weekends to spend there.  At the back of the cottage the garden is enclosed and private, with very high walls on two sides, and the plan is to put in lots of scented and white flowering plants so as to make it a fragrant place for sitting in the evenings and for meals.  The white flowers will hopefully gleam in the gathering dusk and at night time and some which will need planting soon are:
Stephanotis (not for outdoors, only for the front porch), philadelphus, port wine magnolia, queen of the night, and lilac (though it may not be cold enough to get a good crop of flowers).  White lilies are going to feature largely too, but not until next season as it is too late to plant them now.  Scented annuals such as stock and alyssum should all be useful in filling in gaps until the larger plants are established.  Sometimes the planning is just as much fun as the actual execution!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Long Weekend Excitements

Well for most of the country the biggest event of the long weekend would have been the long awaited regaining of the Webb Ellis trophy after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup, and I must say it turned out to be a very exciting (and nerve wracking) game.  The French were almost triumphant and there was an expectant hush all over the country as the game drew to a close.  Would the All Blacks be able to hold on for the one point victory?  As it turned out, they did, and what a relief!  Apparently doctors surgeries all over the country would have been swamped with depressed men and boys if we had not won it.

 Mr Shoestring had a ticket to see the game and was in a perfect seat to take in the whole spectacle and tells me that the atmosphere was intense and the whole event very exciting.

  I think I had just as much fun on the night though, I was invited to a party in a home where the games room had been converted to a “man cave” complete with grandstand, and the game was projected on the wall.  The room was festooned with all the flags from the participating nations and there was a delicious lamb on a spit and other tasty food for the guests.  What a beautiful night it was and what staunch heartland Kiwis were there to cheer on their team.

Having an extra day makes a huge difference to a weekend – wouldn’t it be nice to have that luxury every week?  I made myself a new dress, also did lots on the botanical dress embellishments.  And the op shop haul was a good one too, Mr Shoestring treated himself to these shoe forms. 

I am sure there must be a name for them, but I have no idea what that might be.  It looks as though his fondness for tools may be transferring to shoe accessories now, this is the second set of similar articles he has obtained of late.

For me the highlight at the market was the plant man who has unusual plants.  This week I bought lily of the valley and a strange cobra headed flowering plant from him.  Every time I have seen his plants I have been impressed by their health and reasonable prices.  I don’t hold out much hope for the lily of the valley, it may not be cold enough for it at Shoestring, but have popped it into a nice spot on the shady side of the cottage.  Also I found a pair of kid gloves in pristine condition – perfect for next Art Deco Weekend in Napier in February.  

The programme has come out now and we are booked in for all our favourite events, the next thing will be to create some costumes for the evening events – they are always more of a challenge.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lemongrass and Labradoodles, Lavender and Lemon Verbena

Everything was soft and springlike in the garden on Saturday morning and I was enjoying a quiet moment of contemplation in the vege garden.  The fallen blossom from the cherry tree was carpeting the grass, the sky was blue and the sun was warming my back.  Suddenly Mr Shoestring came striding purposefully up beside me, bent over and attempted to wrench one of my plants out of the earth.  “Hey, what are you doing?  Stop it!”, quoth I in my usual honeyed tones.  “Just pulling out this weed for you!” he proudly declared.  I had to explain that the plant in question wasn’t a weed, but a prized herb.  “Oh, I thought it was a grass!”  Well, it was a grass of a kind, it was lemongrass and I was hoping we could use it in Thai dishes. 

I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that some people are gardeners and some people just never “get” gardening.  Though Mr Shoestring tries his best to be helpful in the garden, he will always need close scrutiny and strict supervision if similar disasters are to be avoided.  In fact I am beginning to cast my mind back over the years and remember times when prized rare and unusual specimens have mysteriously vanished from sight in the garden and wonder whether  the culprit may have been under my nose all the time.  Mr Shoestring can be useful in the garden, for instance this weekend he did an impressive job of digging out a gnarled old root, huge and very difficult to remove.  But there will always be the nagging doubt as to whether he can be left to his own devices.

Having said that though, it is becoming obvious that I will never “get” rugby so we both have to make allowances.  On Sunday night Mr Shoestring settled down to watch back to back Rugby World Cup matches and had to endure uninformed comments from myself, our daughters and one of their friends, mainly to do with fashion pointers for the players.  (To be truthful, some of them could do with some updates regarding hairstyles though.)  

On Saturday we found a brilliant monthly market in a nearby town where there were hostas and calla lily bulbs to be had at very reasonable prices, also irises.  The hostas should provide the slugs and snail with a tasty treat for the next little while but the irises should be virtually indestructible (fingers crossed).  As for the calla lilies, I seem to be forever planting bulbs on the offchance that they will thrive and prosper.  Usually I come along shortly afterwards and impale them on my trowel, either that or they just vanish, never to be seen again.  But ever the optimist I have popped in six miscellaneous calla lily bulbs and will hope for the best.  It would probably be sensible to mark the spots with those pointy sticks specially designed for the purpose but they seem to be markers of failure rather than success – like mini gravestones they would end up cluttering up the garden, indicators of failed horticultural endeavours.   Sigh.  The Dutch irises have been rather a success though.  This one in particular has lovely antique bronzey shades – but I can’t remember buying that colour, so it remains a mystery to me. 

Mr Shoestring’s favourite acquisition this week was this wonderful miniature mouli mill for parsley and mint; he managed to wheedle it out of my dear mama after a hinting campaign.  He is not subtle but his methods are effective.  We are going through a pea and haloumi fritter phase and using quite a bit of mint so this little tool will be very helpful.  I will give you the recipe for the fritters, they are truly delicious!  

Another highlight this weekend was a visit from Westiegirl and her beautiful Labradoodle, Indie.  Indie is just eight months old and had been for her own version of a haircut.  Following this her beautiful coat felt like velvet, soft and irresistible for stroking and patting.  She has been having lessons in walking on the lead, sitting and staying and was very well behaved for such a young thing. 

Exhausted after a trip to the hairdresser - I know the feeling Indie!

Until recently we thought that pets were forbidden in our apartment but we have discovered that they are actually allowed and we are torturing ourselves with the possibilities.  Having thought about dogs (too cruel to keep in an apartment, and think of the damage a puppy would do if left alone at home), cats (what if they leapt off the balcony and fell to their death 10 storeys below?) and rabbits (I can see the headlines now, “Apartment building inferno – rabbit chews wiring and causes carnage”), we have come to a standstill so we are satisfying our craving for a pet by watching nature documentaries.  We have even sunk to the level of, “Oh, look at that adorable toad, isn’t it cute?”  Tragic really.  Somebody suggested a pet rat to me today but I don’t think I am quite ready for that. 

Because the weather was so beautiful I started airing out the quilts after winter time.  Last week I had pruned the lemon verbena so I am drying the leaves I took off it, and will mix it in with some dried lavender flowers to make sachets to put amongst the quilts in the quilt cupboard.    

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Botanical Dress

Some people have very predictable tastes and I fall into this category; anything with a floral/bird/insect/gardening theme is irresistible.  It is a pity, but there it is, it can't be helped.  Friends and family can always tell that certain objects will appeal to me if they have that certain look.    

When we went on the girls’ road trip to Tarnished Frocks and Divas we discovered a lovely shop on the way home called Village Fabrics & Needlecraft.  It is a good thing I don’t live too close or I would be spending all my time and money there.  I did buy half a metre of this botanical themed fabric and am planning to make my special Christmas/summer frock for the year using this fabric for the bodice.

 Look!  It even has birds!

 and butterflies
  and bees, flowerpots and trowels!

For the skirt there will be black silk with a black tulle overlay, and the tulle will have all kinds of flowers, insects, birds and garden themed things appliquéd to it.  So far I am working on these flowers …

strawberries and blackberries

but eventually there should be some dragonflies, butterflies and whatever else I can think of.  Planning all the things to be appliquéd on is great fun.  I will show you the end result – provided I am not too distracted by the redwork sampler with birds which is taking all my spare time at present!  It is ages since I did any cross stitch and it is very relaxing to take up the needle again.

 Birds - they seem to be something of a preoccupation of late

  Cherubs on another piece of cross stitch for a cushion

Foiled At Every Turn

(Mrs Shoestring Wallows In Self Pity And Needs To Pull Self Together!)

Though I hate to admit it, I have been feeling a teeny tiny bit sorry for myself of late.  First of all there was a nasty injury which necessitated a visit to the doctor and has made it unadvisable to jog for a while.  (Or forever, if doctor is to be believed.)  To add insult to injury the doctor to whom I presented myself, rather than being sympathetic, was unable to understand the reason for a sensible person to want to indulge in such a foolhardy activity.  In fact he questioned me closely as to "Just what exactly is it that you like about jogging?"  I felt as though I had admitted to some strange perversion and it was hard to explain what attracted me to this ghastly activity.  He then went on to tell me (rather smugly, it seemed to me) that he took no exercise.  I was surprised that he didn't add, "And look how gorgeous I am, despite that!"  He moved on to a lecture as to the reasons why the human body was not designed for running.  At intervals there was, "short sharp burst of activity only", "not long distances of exertion", "damage to tendon", "stress fracture", "should not run on hard surfaces", "if must run should only run only on soft surfaces, take self to grassed area" etc etc, on and on it went.  Perhaps the reason I can only recall snippets of this lecture is that my mind began to wander off and I was resisting the urge to stick my fingers in my ears and sing, "La la la la la" until he ran down and reached the end of his speech.  Just as well it didn't come to that; he may have prescribed me an entirely different treatment in that case.

Having given in to the advice not to do any more running (for a while at least, we shall have to await further developments on that front) it was horrible to come down with ghastly cold and almost lose one's voice.  (Though Mr Shoestring is possibly pleased about that.  He seems to find it very amusing for some reason.)  Now am croaking away at family and having to live a very quiet life.

On Saturday in the sewing room at Shoestring Cottage there was chaos all around and the room seemed almost ankle deep in various pieces of fabric, sewing accessories.  The situation began to seem beyond hope.  Imagine how lovely to hear from Mrs Tasty Hastie - she and Mr Hastie were in town at the annual "Cruise In" where people with vintage cars all turned up and parked them in the main street.  Yes, how lovely to see her, just what a sad and sick sedentary person needed to cheer herself up.  As soon as we met at the front door it was necessary to explain about horrible head cold and decision to let hair go grey, in case Mrs Tasty Hastie thought she had come to the wrong place, such was the hideousness of one's appearance.  "Oh God no, you mustn't let yourself go grey, you will look like an old grannie!" exclaimed Mrs Hastie.

Once we were comfortably installed in the courtyard of the lovely cafe in town Mrs Hastie told me about her love of all things with leopardskin prints, and her beautiful leopard skin swing coat and various other leopard skin garments and accessories she possessed.  This old grannie began to feel rather overshadowed in the glamour stakes, it has to be said.  Mrs Hastie even had on tall leopard skin wedge heel, peeptoe sandals with pretty red painted toenails peeking out, and was looking most sleek and pampered.  One couldn't help but reflect that if one were to attempt the wearing of such sandals, one would be likely to lose control of them and tumble head first down the steps of the cafe thereby making complete spectacle of oneself.  The only consolation was that Mrs Hastie's ankles were attacked by voracious blood sucking midgies whereas one's one sensibly encased ankles (thick black opaque tights, not in the least bit glamorous it must be said) were unscathed.

It was lovely to catch up with Mrs Hastie (and Mr B Hastie too of course), but I couldn't help reflecting, as they roared off in their vintage car, that some people have to content themselves with being sparrows rather than brightly plumed tropical birds - or, to put it another way, some people are the Mustangs of the world

 and some people are old Austins.

I took myself off home and peered out the back window where rain was threatening and noticed a large flock of finches feasting on the grass seed so lovingly sewn directly under their bird feeder, where a treat of assorted bird seeds awaited them.  Would they eat the special bird seed in the feeder?  No, they would not, the ungrateful things.  Sometimes life just does not go in the way you had planned.  Sigh.

 Look at the little picnic set, isn't it perfect?

 The ultimate in comfortable touring vehicles

Or perhaps you would prefer a luxury caravan and car combination like this one?