Monday, September 24, 2012

A Fine Spring Weekend

What a beautiful weekend we were treated to as far as the weather went!  On Saturday morning when I stepped outside the grass was carpeted with a snow of fallen blossom and the air was humming with the sound of the bees working in the blossom.
I think some of the bees must have become a bit intoxicated because I noticed one which was very drowsy, crawling around on the bricks edging one of the garden beds.  There were some weeds to be pulled and some gladioli bulbs to be planted, plus one lonely late lily bulb.  I used to despise gladioli but after having some success with a very unusual mauve and green one last year (which one visitor saw in a vase and insisted must be an artificial flower because of its unlikely colours), I have overcome my prejudice and decided to try a few other colours including a lime green and a couple of different pinks.  It doesn’t do to be too choosy in the garden, as I am rapidly discovering.  Any plant is a good plant really, unless you have something better to replace it with.  The kittens made the most of the chance to get outside too and spent some time climbing to the tops of trees and then finding out the hard way that sometimes it is more difficult to come down than to go up. 

 This is Madame La Poste's favourite tulip shade and I am hoping some of the buds will unfurl to reveal more of the same because it is my favourite too.
 Many of the tulips are this rather more lurid shade though
 The violas are still going strong
 I wish I had bought more of this very unusual lachenalia bulb - but there is always next season
 The clivias I planted last year are having their first blooms

We had a visit from Madam La Poste who had to endure a tour of the garden while I pointed out to her each and every emerging lily and I suspect she may have put a heroic effort into not yawning while I was blathering on about my plans for the garden.  Lord and Lady Raglan graced us with a call on Sunday.  Lord Raglan told Mr Shoestring that he was having to beat down the grass in his front lawn because it was nearly growing through the windows (the competition over lawns continues unabated), to which Mr Shoestring replied that he had just been outside chasing golfers off the front lawn, as they were practising their putting there on the emerald green sward.  After being so rude to Lady Raglan a few weekends ago when we fought over the same vintage hat I felt remorseful and tried to give Lady Raglan the hat which had caused all the trouble, but she assured me she had had a lucky escape from that hat, realising afterwards that she already had a lovely blue chapeau and did not need another.  What a true aristocrat, how her noble nature shines through! 


Last weekend I cut out a summer dress and commenced stitching.  I was so pleased with the finished product that I cut out another and finished that too.  The first one has world maps and the second has passport stamps.  There is one more waiting to be made, and I think that will be my favourite – it has all over postage stamps and I have saved that for last. 


The fabrics for these dresses came from a large emporium which I visit from time to time, and every time I come out of the place I vow and declare I will never return.  The service is slow, the staff seem to have no knowledge whatsoever of the products they are selling and sometimes even if you are armed with one of their pamphlets and point out what you are attempting to purchase they will confidently assert that they do not and never have stocked any such product.  If you go in looking for a particular item you are more than likely to be disappointed and the stock is in such disorder that you sometimes suspect that the desired article is in there somewhere, if only you could locate it.  But my desire for a bargain always gets the better of me and I give in and go for “just one more” trip there.  Sometimes there are great bargains to be had and it is best to treat the whole outing as a mystery tour which may or may not turn up the thing you set out to purchase but on the other hand you are likely to come home with a completely unrelated item and be very pleased with yourself for unearthing such a bargain.  
This is my second to last landscape "find" - Habitat for Humanity - and it reminds me of many of the tumbledown cottages and farm buildings we see on our way to Shoestring.  I like the way you look through the dark shade to the light sky - I think this is called chiaroscuro.

 This was the latest acquisition - from our road trip - $3.  It looks a bit choccy box here but the colours are very subtle in "real life". 

On the road trip I found a cache of sad hankies, all beautifully embroidered or embellished with the most beautiful lace.  They were rather stained and rusty and I was doubtful as to whether the marks would come out but at 20 cents each it wasn't a major expenditure.  They washed up beautifully and I think I will stitch them onto a voile background fabric and make a pretty sheer curtain for the bathroom. 

I hope your weekend was as peaceful and fulfilling as mine was, roll on Friday!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mr Shoestring Goes On A Road Trip

Last weekend and early this week Mr Shoestring and I went on a road trip to Palmerston North, Wanganui and New Plymouth taking in the sights along the way and of course venturing into any thrift shops we happened to spy.  Well my dears, what a veritable treasure trove of delights we came home with.  The car was bursting at the seams and we were very pleased with ourselves. 

In Wanganui we visited Virginia Lake where there is a winter garden 
The deco facade of the Winter Gardens at Virginia Lake

As a child I used to visit the winter gardens in the grounds of the Auckland Museum and was always fascinated by a similar (albeit larger, grander) wishing well there where the fish could swim right through an underwater tunnel and it has always been my secret ambition to one day have something similar myself.  Luckily Mr Shoestring took a look at the fountain and declared that it would be fairly simple to create something like that, so I have high hopes that one day (after all the other more pressing jobs are completed) my dreams may come true. 

The weather was a disappointment, sadly we had solid rain except for the last day of our journey.  At the gardens at Virginia Lake we saw these poor bedraggled birds in the aviary.  There were flocks of wild birds hovering around the outside of the aviary, probably hopeful of entering briefly and getting a free birdy lunch.
As the rain came bucketing down even the most colourful birds couldn't look cheerful

But look at these lovely babies in their nesting box

There were many empty commercial buildings in the provincial towns and it was a pity to see them with their proud lettering marking their original names and the years of their construction, only to see them neglected and unloved.  

In one town we were standing in the middle of the road gazing up at the facades of two particularly lovely buildings which had large signs advertising that they were for mortgagee sale.  A passing motorist stopped and told us that they were empty and being sold because since the Christchurch earthquake there would need to be strengthening work done, which was prohibitively expensive.  I suspect this will be happening all round the country and that many lovely buildings will be lost to us for this reason. 
 This building might have been opened in time for the 1934 Olympic games, now it is empty
 Imperialism is frowned upon, but once not so
 Better to be a Moral brother than an Immoral brother anyway

The highlight of the trip was a visit to Tupare in New Plymouth.  This was originally a private estate with construction of the house and garden beginning in 1932 and the house is a Chapman Taylor gem in the arts and crafts movement style.  Sadly the house was closed, but peering through the windows we could make out the built in hand made furniture.  The house has the cosy and intimate feeling of some others of this era and style and we will definitely return one day for a look at the inside. 

Even the front door is a work of art

Peeping in the windows we could see the built in adzed furniture.  

The garden design was inspirational.  As we had driven around the country I had admired gardens on elevated sites but the garden at Tupare is nestled into a hillside with the plantings flowing down the slopes onto the flat land beside a river which adds sound to the garden.  It feels as if the garden is cradled in an enormous unseen hand.  I have to confess though that I experienced a wicked thrill to notice some onion weed blossoming among the bluebells and a few holes in the emerging hostas where the slugs had had a bit of a nibble.  I wonder if all gardeners take secret pleasure in observing the trials and tribulations of other gardeners?

Even the onion weed looks attractive at Tupare

Among the many and varied treasures we discovered on our travels was this pair of lovely navy suede and kid gloves and the pleated handbag perfect for next summer’s art deco weekend. 

Finally, after a bit of a drought in the last few months, we found another masterpiece to add to the landscape collection - $3, thank you kindly Red Cross.  Probably the best find on the art deco clothing front from my perspective was this lace jacket in a shade I think of as Wallis blue after it was popularised by Mrs Simpson in the 30s. 

The jewellery haul was excellent – pearls in their original container
"Pompadour Pearls - Pearls For a Princess"

  Marquisite earrings

This vase hasn't photographed well but it has lovely glowing colours and would look good with zinnias in autumn

A baby version of another jug we use at Shoestring

A very unusual pink and gold vase, it may be a mission to find some flowers to suit it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Swans and Frocks and Pincurls

This weekend I was thrilled to finally obtain the variegated hydrangea I have been searching for.  (I know, tragic isn’t it?)  I had planted one which was given to me as a cutting and which I had nursed along until it developed roots, but it promptly turned up its toes (or roots) and died over the winter.  It does seem that variegated plants tend to be a bit less hardy than their more homely plain green cousins.  Being determined to achieve success with the variegated version I bought two this time, and at an outlay of only $2.50 per plant.  Granted, they are not impressive in stature as yet but I have high hopes that this time they will thrive, or at least survive.  Also I found two perennial lobelias with very unusual red leaves so I hope they will be happy in the garden at Shoestring Cottage also, and it will be interesting to see what kind of flower they eventually produce.  The market was disappointing apart from these plants, (I think because of the ghastly sounding weather forecast a lot of stall holders had stayed home), but at the wonderful op shop up the road I found a cute old dress with this gorgeous all over print of plant pots with daisy-like flowers in them, and blue bias binding trim. 

 I suspect it dates from the 1950s but I can’t be certain.  Also at the same op shop was this serene swan which can now sail along my window sill.  It set me back $1.

These swans (so utterly naff I know) have become wildly popular once more and are very much sought after, I haven’t seen a small one like this before but thought it was very pretty and smallness is an asset at Shoestring Cottage where space is so limited, thanks to my regular op shop sorties.

In the same op shop I found this shadow box, which needed a small repair but some thoughtful person had provided the broken parts when they donated the shadow box and Mr Shoestring quickly repaired it with his trusty PVA.  When Madam La Post called in we had a very enjoyable discussion as to what could be displayed in the new find.  We can ponder that topic for a while yet, I suspect it will be a while yet before Mr Shoestring feels strong enough to complete the refurbishments planned in the sewing room and it doesn't do to press him.

The kittens are getting very good about travelling up and down to the cottage and make no sound when they are in their travelling cage in the car.  We let them out into the garden this weekend and they loved chasing each other round and round and scampering up the trees.  Sadly though Basil is able to climb up the trees but not to get down again.  Consequently he has to drop to the earth eventually (when he loses strength in his “arms” and can cling on no longer) and then tries to look as if it was all part of his plan.  You know what cats are like, they take themselves rather seriously and don’t like to look foolish. 

 Basil and Florence looking angelic - but we know better

There is a lot of new growth in the garden and I was surprised to see the first bud on the English rose Graham Thomas.  Thankfully as yet there are no signs of aphids and the foliage is all looking healthy – maybe the frosts over the winter were worth it. 

 No aphids - yet

There were so many blossoms to choose from in the garden for the weekly , here you can see freesias, bluebells, polyanthus and daffodils.  Speaking of daffodils a fellow apartment dweller has kindly donated me her tete a tete daffodils which have finished flowering on her apartment balcony, so I will plant them amongst the bluebells in the back garden.  If my plans are successful there will be a better display next year because the tete a tete seemed to be flowering at the same time as the bluebells, though of course I had planted mine in a different part of the garden so didn’t reap the rewards this year.  Next year will be better!  (Don’t we gardeners always think that though?) 

The tulips have rewarded us with lots of blooms.  I will lift them once they die back and save them for replanting next year after six weeks or so in the fridge.  (Note to self, make sure Mr Shoestring does not attempt to cook them.)

When I was weeding I managed to spear not one but two of the lily shoots with my trowel.  Why oh why I have this unerring instinct for the torture of expensive bulbs is beyond me, I nearly cried.  Maybe they will survive and put forth shoots next season but there is no hope for any flowers off them this year.  Well, nothing for it, will just have to keep on planting more of them until the desired effect is achieved! 

In between gardening and chatting with friends (and a gift of yet more bounty for crazy quilting, thank you Madame La Poste), I was absorbed by the book NZ Woman's Weekly The First 60 Years.  From 1937 there was an advertisement confidently assuring readers they could gain "7 Attractive Pounds in 12 short days", which is a problem not many of our population are afflicted with nowadays.

There was also an article from 1938 with 11 rules regarding kissing which I found strangely intimate and somehow rather shocking.  The points included, "When kissing a girl lingeringly, leave at least one nostril unrestricted.  A girl must breathe."  Another urged, "Never kiss a girl with your hat on - it's disrespectful, and ample grounds for a sound slap."  How mysterious, I wonder why leaving one's hat on for a kiss was disrespectful?  I would not have expected this kind of instruction from such a sedate and worthy publication as the NZ Women’s Weekly I must admit.  But the fashions from the 1930s were beautiful and I wished I could somehow extract them from the illustrations and transport them directly into my wardrobe. 

Afternoon frocks from 1933 - my favourite fashion year
When we got back to Auckland I was thrilled to find that in the mail my new pin curl maker had been delivered all the way from Australia and I immediately had to try it out. 

 Here she is, the little beauty
 Even the packaging is delightful

If you are a fan of retro or vintage looks I can’t recommend the Sculpture Pin Curler enough, it makes the most wonderful pin curls and you just hold them in place with a hair grip while they are "setting".  Sleeping with them in is perfectly comfortable.  I became so enamoured of my new toy that I think I will use it every week.  Possibly every day, as the results are quite fetching in the morning but my hair refuses to "hold" a curl for the whole day.  I may have to overcome my aversion to hairspray, the things we do for our art!  I notice those attractive ladies in the "frocks" above have some good pin curls going on and if they were prepared to suffer then so will I.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Mysteries Of Engrish, The Bounty Of The Sea

We recently had to locate by hook or by crook a new tap fitting for the kitchen at Shoestring Cottage.  A search for attractive but reasonably priced second hand taps proved fruitless and we finally and reluctantly came to the conclusion that the most frugal option would be to purchase a new tap over the mysterious and mighty Interweb.  You can imagine our excitement when after a short time the tap arrived from Hong Kong, complete with its very own protective sock and some very confusing instructions.  Mr Shoestring duly installed the tap and professes himself to be very pleased with it, but most of al he was pleased to read this information:

The beautiful in time relates the simple yet splendid life it is not just a simple process of application it is a course of appreciation in sightit is a masterpiese.  (Yes that is a true transcription from the box the tap came in.)  What can it mean?  Who knows?  But as Mr Shoestring is an avid collector of Engrish in all its forms he was enchanted by this unexpected bonus, courtesy of the Jingpin Wei You sanitary wares company. 

A lovely tap with an unexpected Engrish bonus
Speaking of taps, I know they can be eye wateringly expensive and we once teased a friend of ours that she got a free kitchen with her tap, so I hope this very cheap option turns out to be durable.  

The first official day of spring turned out to be a pearler, good for gardening and good for a walk around the wetlands where we saw evidence of the recent flooding.  The waxeyes were feasting on the kowhai flowers in the spring sun and we came home a bit sunburnt ourselves.

A bit hard to see the waxeye in the top centre of the picture

We were somewhat nonplussed to see that some swallows had elected to build their nest inside the "hide" where people can look out over the water.  I don't like their chances of successfully raising a family in such a spot, but only time will tell.

The first of the pussy willow catkins were beautifully fluffy and strokeable

On Saturday night we had the honour of judging the third annual scallop competition.  It was the opening day for scallop season and four sets of friends had gone diving, then returned with their catch for the cook up.  At the last minute before we set off to judge I remembered I had a little silver cup (garnered from an op shop) and it polished up beautifully.  So now the competitors will have a cup to inscribe each year to honour the winners.  I must tell you my dears that it was rather a daunting task, as the quality of the entries was so high.  We had scallops cooked in a wine and cheese sauce, scallops "pizza style" with cheese, ham and bacon, and by a weird coincidence two entrants had cooked their scallops using the same very unusual recipe.  Their dish was delicious also, it had coriander, honey and gin in the sauce and we definitely didn't mind having two chances to sample that delicacy.  The competitors must have been trying for a different approach this year, because in former years they have tended more towards seafood chowders and crumbed scallops.  Needless to say we came in from some harsh and cruel remarks from the poor unfortunates who were the "also rans".  They accused us of accepting bribes and all kinds of other scurrilous behaviour but we have clean consciences; the dozen fresh eggs we were given were only donated after the prize was awarded, and didn't come from the eventual winners either.  Apparently the plan now is that the largest shell, which had been saved as a souvenir, will be incorporated with the silver cup to make an even more impressive prize for next time.  The dishes are already being planned for next year and we are already hoping to be asked to be judge again!  Nothing is quite as delicious as seafood so fresh and so lovingly prepared.