Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Toastie in May

Well I must admit that it has been unseasonably warm and there has been no need to complain about the weather, apart from the dreary rain.  Nevertheless, we have put the extra quilt on the bed and it is my favourite quilt of all time, given to me by Bobby.  This quilt is the epitome of the Shoestring philosophy, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without".  It was created using tiny samples hand pieced using a line of discontinued quilting fabrics and the original samples are no more than one inch square.  Also you may be able to see the embroidered butterfly which was placed just so to cover a small but obstinate stain on the quilt.

On Friday night when we arrived at Shoestring we were surprised to discover some mail in the letter box (and not a rates demand either).  It proved to be a parcel from Mrs Canuck who had sent a beautifully embellished parcel containing hat pins, and also an original chocolate box and collage said to represent the completion of the rail trail cyclist - a Julie Andrews/crossing the alps/ecstasy compilation!

The hills are alive with the sound of music!

How skilful was she and how wonderful to find such a thoughtful gift in the letterbox.

On Saturday we travelled to Thames and took in the sights.  We found this lovely little plate, left over from a doll house dinner service - probably from the 1920sjudging by the clothes of the models.

 And I was thrilled to discover this "hostess apron" in the SPCA thrift shop for the princely sum of 50 cents, somebody has spent a long time cutting out the bouquets of violets and zigzagging them onto their lovely apron.  Yet another example of the shoestring approach.  Now I shall be the hostess with the mostess and please my guests with my attractive pinny.

Rather a lurid blue shade rather than authentic violet colour but who are we to complain?

Also this weekend I finally completed this needlepoint cushion - after all, it has been waiting for many years to finally be assembled and turned into something useful.  I think Wallis Simpson said, "A woman can never be too rich or thin".  I think "A woman can never be too rich or too thin, or have too many needlepoint cushions".  Donated green velvet backing (left over from upholstering), left over fabric for ruffle trim:

Also I made some bunting to hang at the front of Shoestring in the spring time (if spring ever arrives), with pieces of doyleys beyond redemption for other projects.  Please excuse the odd marks on the walls, this is where a new window will be installed - an unwanted left over window removed from a renovation on another abode.  The shoestring philosophy again.  This is the project for next weekend, when we have an extra day for Queen's birthday.

Last but not least is this little frog who is going to grace the garden at Shoestring - but knowing how forgetful we can be, he will stay inside for a little longer until we can put him beside some flowing water and perhaps glue him into place.

Also three lovely mother of pearl dishes for 50 cents each, lovely and smooth and strokeable

and a set of 1980s earrings which have a very art deco look  and should be good for belt buckles on an art deco costume for winter deco

I don't usually endorse books or other products but I was completely taken by this wonderful atmospheric book which I had to purchase after seeing it in Thames.  What beautiful light and what magnificent felines!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

Now I suspect if we have half an eyeball and half an ear we know what we should be eating, drinking, reading, watching and generally doing in our lives these days.  We know we should eat more vegetables, drink more water, read the latest Booker Prize winners, enjoy opera (preferably Wagnerian rather than Mozart, which is rather light and frothy) if we are going to live long and productive lives, make ourselves more worthy and generally be all round virtuous human beings.  But to be honest there are times when we rebel; speaking for myself sometimes when I know I should be eating a tasty and delicious piece of salmon (just think of all the Omega 3s), what I really crave is a Hot and Spicy Thai Two Minute Noodle Soup instead.  And that is just the beginning of my bad behaviour.  If you look at the butterflies above you can see a recent example of very poor taste, and my word so pretty!  I can't wait for spring time to come when I can turn on their little batteries and put them out in the garden at Shoestring Cottage and they can flash and pulsate and generally look garish and vulgar.  When you first turn them on they flicker different colours quickly, then they develop different shades with longer phases between colour changes.  They are fascinating.  That is only the start of the guilty pleasures I have been indulging in lately.  Another (and an even worse one) is a passion for the reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex.  In fact the whole family sits down and watches double back to back episodes once a week.  We feel a bit ill afterwards, but we don't let that stop us.  There, I have admitted the worst - what is your guilty pleasure?

On Saturday night Mr Shoestring swept me off my feet - literally.  We went down the road to the local RSA where Tony Wellington performed his act including Roy Orbison and Engelbert Humperdink inpersonations.  (Another low brow guilty pleasure.)  I don't know what got into Mr Shoestring, but he was a human dynamo and refused to sit down for more than one song at a time.  He wouldn't go home until the last number of the evening and it has to be admitted we made something of a spectacle of ourselves.  (I realised this when a couple of locals came up to me and commenced their conversations with, "You're not from around here, are you?")  Not that we were rowdy, you understand, just very visible with our constant presence on the dance floor.  Mind you, Mr Shoestring suffered the next day.  He confided that his thighs were a bit sore.  Personally, I put that down to doing the twist but I could be wrong.

In the garden the mild autumn continues.  We have roses, snowdrops, marigolds, cyclamen and succulents all blooming at the same time while the freesias are bursting through the earth along with the daffodils and jonquils.  All in all it is rather unsettling and seems wrong somehow to have all these things blossoming at once.  I suppose we will suffer the consequences next summer, because without a cold hard spell to kill the bugs the roses will suffer, but for now we will just make the most of it and be thankful for a warm season.

A while ago I used some old china and glassware to make cake stands.  This weekend I put them out in the garden, which is rapidly filling up with old pieces of china and cutlery.  One is glued onto on a wooden stake which I plan to grow variegated ivy around, and the other is on an old cut off limb in the plum tree.  If you have a go at making some of these yourself just use five minute epoxy glue, it is very simple to do and lots of fun.  The cups at the top would look pretty with small spring bulbs such as hoop petticoat daffodils in them, but I think I may have left it a bit late for this season.

Speaking of the plum tree, it took a hammering this weekend when Mr Shoestring decided to "prune" it.  I am not sure where Mr Shoestring developed his pruning skills, but as soon as me mentions the word I head indoors.  He does not prune with a pruning saw, he prefers a chain saw and on this occasion the chain saw broke.  (Possibly this is a good thing, it may have prevented further depredations.)  Once he pruned a venerable old olive tree and I was horrified to discover that it was left with only two small twigs.  It did recover though, so I bite my tongue and say not a word when pruning is under way.  The plum tree looks very sad and dejected and I can imagine all the birds flying "home" in the evening and being very perplexed as to where they are to spend the nights from now on.  We will just have to await further developments and hope for the best.

Apart from gardening I carried on with the quilting on the pink/yellow quilt, I am approaching the end now and pleased with the result.

Now I just have to bore you with one more photo of green glass items.  The Dancing Queen has started a collection also and wants to know how many pieces I have.  (I suspect I may have some serious competition on my hands.)  Well, I have counted up and there are nine pieces so far, and here is a photo so The Dancing Queen can see them.  I was thinking I had better stop collecting but now I have a good reason to continue, I can send some pieces to The Dancing Queen.  I think there were a couple of nice pieces at the last market I went to, I hope the are still there next time.  The thrill of the chase!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Autumn Gardening and Art Deco Inspirations

At the markets this weekend we had a wonderful haul of bargains.  There were these three lovely pieces of old green depression glass to join the ever-expanding collection, 

plus a beautiful pansy plate (pansies are my all time favourite) 

and two of these dishes which we will hang outside on the trellis with the other old plates. 

Mr Shoestring, flushed with success after his cocktail party last week, was in raptures when he discovered this old cocktail shaker.  It seemed at first that the top may be permanently stuck on, but it soon yielded and I am sure it will see some service in the coming months. 

The weather has been surprisingly mild for this time of year and on Sunday I had a very happy session in the garden scratching up the earth like a demented chook and attempting to root out the oxalis and various other tenacious weeds.  Obviously this is going to be an ongoing process so the best approach is to learn to love weeding and treat it as a period of meditation in the weekends.  I was pleased to find lots of seedling plants suitable for transplanting.  There were 
 seedling geranium
 foxglove (hopefully white, I laid down old white seedheads)
and violas coming up in the cracks in a path

 At the market on Saturday I was pleased to find a wintersweet, which I always plant and which always disappoints.  Garden writers go into raptures over its heavenly scent but I can never force more than one or two pathetic blossoms from my plants, perhaps it is too warm in our part of the world for it to thrive.  I remember it in my mum’s garden from my childhood and perhaps this is why I have such a fondness for it.  I do know that my mum also finds it always disappoints, but she perseveres and plants it wherever she goes also. 

I also foolishly bought a ginko.  I have planted a gingko everywhere I have gardened but it is really far too large for the tiny garden at Shoestring.  In time it will reach 20 – 35 metres.  Gingkos are very ancient and their fossilised remains have been found.  The leaf is like a maidenhair fern leaf and the autumn colouring is very pretty – a vivid yellow.  They were once widespread throughout the world but then their range shrank until by two million years ago it was restricted to a small part of China. For centuries it was thought to be extinct in the wild, but is now known to grow in at least two small areas in China.  Apart from the gingko I put in two new hydrangeas – only time will tell if they live up to the glowing descriptions provided by the gentleman who sold them to me.  (I must obviously be a gullible customer, I always come away with plants I never intended purchasing but at least at the market the prices are very reasonable.)

But by far the most exciting thing for me this week was that I purchased this hat on TradeMe. 

The Dancing Queen actually spotted it, she was buying another one made by the same lady.  Look out for "Decho Echo" if you would like your very own art deco hat, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.  They are made from wool felt and the designs are sensational.  Since collecting my new treasure I have been in a frenzy of excitement as to what costume would set it off best.  There were these two Vintage Vogue patterns

and finally I think I will plump for the one with the peplum.  At Centrepoint Fabrics in Newmarket I found a perfect fabric (slightly imperfect, heavily reduced) so next weekend must get stitching and forego the pleasures of the garden or it won’t be ready in time for winter deco in July. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Darling Buds Of May

Last Saturday Mr Shoestring was in a frenzy of preparations because he was expecting guests.  The Darling Buds of May was showing at the local playhouse and it is one of Mr Shoestring’s favourite plays.  (I suspect he has great admiration for Pop Larkin.)  Friends were calling round before we all set off for the play and Mr Shoestring planned a hearty repast for his guests and also a selection of cocktails (as Pop Larkin would thoroughly approve of) for their delectation and enjoyment.  He spent the afternoon preparing food and drinks, then slipped into his dinner suit and topped it off with his red smoking jacket (or dressing gown as we more sartorially challenged mortals would describe it).

All was prepared and the guests arrived in fine spirits and partook of his delicious food and drinks, which they seemed to heartily approve of.  Not a morsel of food remained, which is always a relief because it prevents one from feeling obliged to scoff down the leftovers the next day, and one is always trying to watch one’s figure these days.  We tried to stick to a suitably "retro" theme for the table, in keeping with the time frame of The Darling Buds of May.

Then we all set off for the playhouse (ladies wearing furs in honour of the occasion) to take in the spectacle of the amateur theatricals.  What a pleasant evening we had, the set was very cleverly designed to include the indoor and outdoor scenes and the actors all played their parts very well.  Pop Larkin was especially good, we thought.  Perfick, just perfick.  

The next day we had an early mother’s day high tea at Banco, the cafĂ© just around the corner in the town.  There were two of our daughters, plus my mum, and we took Mr Shoestring along also so he wouldn’t feel  neglected.

What a feast!  The table was set with pretty floral crockery and dainty linen, the sun streamed through the windows and the Earl Grey tea flowed.  We did our best but we could not finish all the dainty tidbits we were served.  All in all a very well rounded weekend, good company and lots of jokes and conversation, delicious food and an outing to the play. 

The garden was somewhat neglected of course, but I have been on an excursion to the garden centre and plan to put that right next weekend.  Now that we have been at Shoestring for a year I have more of a feeling for what thrives and what does not in our local conditions and am going to stick with the things which reward by flourishing.  Next weekend there are more lily bulbs and cyclamens to go in, and also there are plans afoot for more polyanthus (gradually doing away with the garish ones and replacing them with more muted, old fashioned looking shades), plus more fuchsias (which have been an unexpected runaway success).  Looking at the woody stems of fuchsias it seems that they should strike fairly easily from cuttings so when they finish flowering and I prune them I shall give that a go.  The plants I experimented with were only tiny, $2.99 each from Le Maison Rouge (aka The Warehouse) and I was somewhat doubtful of their chances of survival but they have done surprisingly well.  Now that the weather has broken and the rain has started it will be time to linger indoors more often, gazing at gardening books and making plans for the spring time.  Lots more spring bulbs have gone in this season, which reminds me there are still lots of tulip bulbs chilling in the refrigerator, they need to be planted out this weekend too.  So much to do, so little time at Shoestring!

Now that Mr Shoestring anticipates being once more in paid employment we are excitedly planning winter deco in Napier, a pleasure we feared we may have to forego.  Last year two of the girls came with us.  They took surprisingly well to hats, gloves and fur coats, and feature on this year's programme:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Jaunt

Recently Mr Shoestring and I took a trip to Napier and enjoyed a stay in Ormlie Lodge, a Victorian mansion with picturesque grounds.  

 There was a dovecote with a flock of amorous doves

 a romantic gazebo which was illuminated at night time

and a picturesque fountain where the blackbirds splashed and fluttered to their hearts' content

The summer was at an end but the garden was still looking pretty and the doves in their dovecote were cooing and pitching woo.  (Mr Shoestring didn’t manage to make it indoors without getting bird poo on his trousers, but that was only a minor inconvenience.)  The whole experience was very special. 

We also spent a night in our favourite hotel, The Masonic, oozing art deco ambience and  being refurbished and gussied up in a very sympathetic way.  We have "done" the art deco walk in Napier already but it was good to do it once more and brush up on some of the sights we had forgotten. 
 The original light fittings in the municipal theatre are amazingly colourful and in original condition
The deco details are all round the town to be taken in at one's lesiure

Walking up in the hills behind Napier we saw these beautiful swallows sunning themselves; somehow they are even more appealing than the doves

And there were lots of interesting fungi growing in the botanic gardens and in the hills, including these russety coloured ones

The view from Te Mata peak is spectacular, the rugged landscape awe inspiring

Back to reality again it looks as though Mr Shoestring may soon be joining the ranks of the employed once more, a great relief for all of us and cause for much celebration and rejoicing at Shoestring Cottage.  I do wish he wouldn't insist on telling people that he is about to leave the ranks of "the great unwashed", but boys do tend to favour these less than colourful utterances from time to time.  I always remember that when I was expecting our third child Mr Shoestring took to singing, "I've never been so broke I couldn't leave town" in the shower each morning, which I found somewhat unsettling to say the least!