Monday, February 27, 2012

Down To Earth With A Gentle Bump

These intensely coloured wild convolvulus grow by the road at the edge of town.  I suspect they are a noxious weed, but the colour combined with the yellow of the wild fennel is perfect!  The white and mauve forms we can easily do without, but we have to make an exception for these beauties surely.  (I have been told that the wild fennel is just as good to eat as Florence fennel, but others say that it is not edible.  Very tricky to know whether we should dig some up and give foraging a try.)

Well, it hasn't been all bad coming back to earth after the giddy heights of art deco weekend.  Seeing all the new costumes gives us something to ponder for the rest of the year, but then there is the catching up in the garden to come to grips with.  This weekend we had a tidy up and planted yet more grass seed.  (I know, tragic really isn't it?)  The lawn was mown with the adorable Procut 300, the hand mower which chirps away merrily to itself as it cuts through the new growth on the grass, but does tend to balk at the smallest obstacle and needs to be tended to very lovingly if it is to perform.

Up the road at the Cafe Banco (situated in the old two storeyed bank building) was the inaugural vintage and collectables market, which will be held monthly.  It was a struggle to resist temptation but frugal resolutions must be adhered to.  Lots of pretty clothes and Madame La Poste had fabulous beaded necklaces and other treasures on offer.  Ah bliss, sunshine and coffee and throngs of happy ladies exploring the possibilities.

While we were in Napier the Woolly Wallies presented us with these treasures, two stained glass panels from beside a door.  The latest plan is that there will be a false door in the tall back wall at Shoestring, as though it was possible to pass through the door and into another section of garden.  And in a nearby spot there will be the two pretty panels (perhaps with mirrors behind them to reflect back the light).  They are not shown to their best advantage here, but after a day of dragging the Procut 300 around and heaving coffee grounds all over the place I was too feeble to move them to a better spot for photagraphing them.  Thank you so much Woolly Wallies, you can be sure we will give these a very good home and take care of them.  

The preoccupation with birds continues.  Mr Shoestring was responsible for acquiring this tui (nothing to do with me, I assure you)

and my wicked mama donated this fabulous kitsch wood pigeon from her op shop to Shoestring.  (I am coming to the conclusion that she is my undoing actually.  Whenever I see her she chastises me in one breath for filling the place to overflowing point, while in the next pressing bags of treasures into my hands.  And what can one do when faced with such temptation?  After all, it would be rude to refuse!)

Swallows are a continuing theme

 and this little print was a souvenir of the best art deco weekend ever (so far that is of course) in Napier

While we were in Napier The Dancing Queen gave me a pink glass perfume atomiser.  It safely travelled back to Shoestring where there happened to be two more additions to the pink glass collection

Two identical dishes, 50 cents each at the local op shop

So now it really must stop, before the pink glass overflows off the table and onto the floor and comes to a nasty end.

Last of all, this is another treasure donated by my mum this week.  Very handy for storing mother of pearl buttons which are my favouites, even if that was not its original purpose.

On the weekend we were supposed to be getting ourselves organised for art deco a bit of procrastination took place.  Rather than pack the bags in the scorching heat it seemed like a much better idea to make that essential item, a string of bunting to hang in the front porch.  Here is the finished result (all made from scrap fabrics), lending a festive air to the proceedings.

I was so pleased with it that I was sorely tempted to abandon packing altogether and make a whole series of them, for various occasions and times of the year.  Luckily I didn't or Mr Shoestring would have been very cross indeed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art Deco Weekend in Beautiful Napier

Art deco weekend has come and gone once again, and it was the best ever!  (I think I have said this every year so far.)  The weather was magnificent, the events were wonderful, the Masonic Hotel where we stay has the most helpful staff and interesting guests.  The facilities are excellent and the rooms are being redecorated.

The vintage cars come from all around the country (and some from overseas) to converge on the forecourt at the front of the Masonic Hotel, so we had a wonderful view of all the people coming and going and of the beautiful vehicles too.  

There was dancing in the streets during the day as well as at night time and the swing dancers danced themselves to a standstill.

Bands played in the soundshell and we all were so enthusiastic that we ended up hobbling back to our rooms in the early hours of the morning with blisters on our feet, only to do it all again the next day.  

The architecture has been carefully preserved since the city was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and the paint colours have been researched so as to be as sympathetic as possible.  There are awards for the best paint jobs even, to encourage the preservation of the art deco atmosphere.  

The trolley derby took place on Sunday morning, just before the Gatsby Picnic on the seafront.  Children (and lots of mums and dads as well) competed in a huge range of novelty trolleys including one shaped like a wine bottle, and competition is always very fierce.

 All ready to take up their position in their gazebo at the Gatsby Picnic
 The speakeasy tent

A black and white themed gazebo
Charlie Chaplin enjoying a stroll by the sea during the picnic

This gentleman was returning from an event where the guests went along dressed as passengers on The Titanic, wearing what they would have been wearing at the time.  They were also treated to a meal recreated from the menu.  He has on an old life preserver as well as his long johns and smoking jacket.

Happy times at lunch at The Mission, a very long and leisurely lunch it has to be said, outside and with wonderful company and a beautiful setting.  This year there were 14 of us for lunch and we would have stayed on all afternoon if the venue wasn't needed for a wedding.
 Out for more dancing
The boys played in the annual golf tournament - Lord Raglan on the right won the prize for best dressed man!  This came as a surprise to everybody apart from Lord Raglan.  You can imagine how we all suffered after that, especially the other men.  Lord Raglan is offering to give them costume hints for next year.

The ladies happily entertained themselves shopping while the golf tournament took place
A wonderful air display over the water is put on every year
The botanic gardens are in the centre of town, always worth a visit and beautifully maintained.

We saw The Mousetrap at The Little Theatre and that was an extra treat because we don't always take a play.  Perhaps the best event though was the ball at the Assembly Rooms in Hastings, because the band played a wide range of music and the dance floor was a bit softer than the concrete when we danced in the street!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Let Preparations Commence!

The art deco weekend in Napier may be the highlight of the social calendar for deco devotees, but it has to be admitted that the actual preparation can be somewhat fraught.  This weekend it could not be put off any longer and though the weather was scorching hot I set aside some time to struggle in and out of all the outfits which competed for roles in this most magnificent of events and were ruthlessly “auditioned”.  It did help somewhat to know that at the opposite end of the North Island The Dancing Queen was going through the same tribulations, though you can be sure that she was well ahead of me in the organisational skills department.  Things were not helped by the fact that Mr Shoestring also chose this time to make last minute adjustments to his wardrobe and we spent a lot of time bumping into one another at the ironing board or in the narrow corridor.  Out came the furs, out came the hats, out came the stockings with seams up the back, the jewellery and the handbags. 

But wait!  The most crucial handbag was missing, the brown alligator skin with the matching coin purse!  A very long and fruitless search ensued and I eventually muttered to myself, “Well, that’s that then, I can’t possibly go to art deco weekend this year without my best handbag.”  Finally it was located, and all was well.  But it has to be admitted that there seems to be a bad history with this handbag.  When I took it on its inaugural outing Lady Raglan was showing off a similar handbag and I told her firmly, “No, I am very sorry Lady Raglan but my handbag is more beautiful than yours by a long chalk Old Thing!  Look what perfect condition it is in, yours is a bit scruffy and nowhere near as lovely.”  As I said this I slopped my coffee over the side of the cup and directly into the pristine lining of my treasured bag and it has never been quite the same.  That’s what you get for pride.  So now more humility and modesty is called for when comparing deco costume notes. 

We hear that the weather may not be as perfect and summery as it has been in past years so the furs may get an outing.  My current favourite fur is a cape which was probably made shortly after the craze for all things Egyptian came about in 1922, when Howard Carter unearthed Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Look at the adorable  faces on the clasps, they are so evocative of that time when people were still thrilled by faraway places and exotic archaeological discoveries.   

I never did find my favourite blue parasol with white spots, but as it is made from some kind of stiffened paper it probably would not fare very well in the rain or wind anyway.  (Always look on the bright side …)

On the way to Shoestring Cottage we passed by this maize paddock and it was lovely to see the sunflowers growing amongst the maize.  Mrs Peaceable tells me that stock adore the taste of sunflowers in their feed and it conjured up visions of them snuffling through it, looking for the bits with sunflower flavours.  (A bit like people picking out the dried apricots in their muesli perhaps.  I am sure they are not that discerning but it was a nice thought. 

In the garden there seems to be a bit of a blue mood coming to the fore.  This is a new patch of garden recently started and once the blue plants went in there was no turning back.  They will look pretty with pinks, mauves and purples and perhaps the occasional touch of white also. 

At the local market this weekend I vowed and declared that I would not be rash and buy anything in the "collections" category.  (I am starting to imagine headlines:  "Woman crushed to death under avalanche of flea market finds" or possibly "Police mystified as to cause of exploding house - debris covers wide area.")  But in my defence it was Mr Shoestring who found these teaspoons.  They are the perfect match for our cutlery set, which has no teaspoons.  Also I found two lovely green glass pieces but I am too ashamed to show them to you - maybe after a suitable interval with no more purchases I will feel bolder.  

And this pretty mother of pearl brooch was only 50 cents and it won't take up very much space.  

This silk scarf was going to be cut up for the crazy quilt but it has a hand rolled hem and is in such beautiful colours.  If I wear it with the mother of pearl brooch I will look just like Miss Marple - but is that a good thing, one wonders?

And in order to use up some of the treasures so rashly obtained in recent weeks, here is a cake stand made from three old plates, a candlestick and a little sherry glass.  You can't see the candlestick very well, it was very difficult to photograph.  Good fun to make though!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nature Red In Tooth And Claw

Always A Good Friend In The Garden

On Saturday night it occurred to me that when I went back to work and my friends asked me what I had been up to during the weekend, I would be forced to reply, "Well my dear, for the most part I have been engaged in a campaign of death and destruction, a veritable orgy of killing, and I am very pleased with myself as a result.  Bwa ha ha ha!"  This was because Mr Shoestring and I had spent a large part of the day in quiet pursuit of the demon bag moths which seemed to be destroying the conifers at the front of Shoestring Cottage.

At first when we moved to Shoestring Cottage I disliked the three tall, thin conifers which grew alongside the front wall.  After some thought though it seemed better to leave them where they were for the time being.  After all, nature abhors a vacuum and if I took them out what would replace them?  Ha, weeds, that's what!   So they were left alone and I eventually changed my mind and decided I looked their symmetrical appearance and imposing stature.  

Imagine my horror when one of them began to lose its foliage.  Each week I would leap out of the car upon our arrival to inspect the latest developments (or setbacks).  At first I thought I was imagining it, but over time it became obvious that the front tree (of course it would have to be the one in front) was very unwell indeed.  So much for conifers being virtually indestructible, here was proof that my thumb was black rather than green.

Asking my friends and acquantances, nobody had ever had any problem with defoliation on cypresses.  Upon close inspection the only possible reason was the presence of lots of tube-like, cigar shaped grey insect cases.  

I am not sure what is inside these but imagine it must be some sort of caterpillar which eventually will emerge as a moth - and probably the one organism which adores feasting on conifers.  There were a few of these on the middle cypress and none on the far one, so it seemed a possibility that they were the cause of the problem.  A laborious period of labour followed whereby a ladder was brought and all the horrible things were picked off the tree.  (They must be capable of travelling long distances because I even found one firmly affixed to the roof when I was up there painting recently.)  

Wherever I looked on Saturday there was murder and mayhem.  Look at this praying mantis, suspended upside down and feasting on a poor little green winged moth.  And then there were the slugs - not just a family of them but a veritable city of them all breeding madly all over the garden.  There was nothing for it but to send them to oblivion, sadly.  

So on Sunday Mr Shoestring and I decided it was time to finally do the walk to the top of the mountain, which we had been vowing and declaring to do ever since we moved in - and that was over a year ago.  We set off from the town domain and climbed to the transmission mast at the top of the mountain along a very steep walking track through the native bush, and what a beautiful view there was from the summit.  We saw wild goats racing away madly down the road as we came down again, and there were so many beautiful ferns and trees on the walking path when we turned back along the mountainside.  At the top of the mountain a cold wind was blowing but it was warmer and less windy as we came down again.  We took a side-walk to a waterfall (by this time we has been walking for hours and a little detour seemed inconsequential).  By the time we climbed down again we were footsore and our limbs were nearly seizing up.  We looked forward to a soak in the bath, but were very pleased with ourselves.  

View from part way up the mountain

My mum recently cut back her lavender plants but before she did I harvested the flowers to dry, and spent time this weekend stripping all the tiny blossoms off the stems.  How therapeutic and relaxing this was!  In time it would be fun to make lavender sachets but for now the blossoms are filling bowls and scenting the cottage.  I fear Mr Shoestring is glad to see the end of the process because it became rather time consuming and addictive, the stripping off of the flowers.  I was happily muttering away to myself as I attempted to remove every last tiny blossom and shreds of foliage seemed to fly all around the room, very mysterious.   

I recently told my dear mama that I planned to make a wind chime with old pieces of cutlery, since the garden was already full of old pieces of china hanging on the trees and off pieces of trellis.  The next time I saw her she presented me with a random selection of cutlery from her local op shop so there was no need to search out any pieces.

Here is the end result, courtesy of Mr Shoestring.  It looks very effective hanging in the old cherry tree and the sound is very pretty.  There was a little bit of cursing involved, but not too much.  

Today Monsieur and Madame La Poste visited and we had a good session comparing our many and varied WIPs (Madame La Poste taught me that this stands for Works In Progress), and the dream projects which keep us awake at night.  Also Madame La Poste donated this beautiful violet tea cup to Shoestring - isn't it the perfect match for the other two recently acquired treasures?

And as we are both working feverishly on our crazy quilt projects Madame La Poste also gave me a selection of treasures to use in my forthcoming crazyquilt projects.  

 Antique mother of pearl buttons and glass trimmings

Beautiful mother of pearl buttons with inset letter and bee

More treasures - and another bee!

Another short working week coming up, and then Art Deco Weekend - life doesn't get much better.  Then sadly the return to real life and autumn.  Sniff.