Sunday, March 24, 2013

Treasures From The South

Being the thrifty (but acquisitive, it has to be admitted) creature that I am, the South Island road trip would not have been complete without one or two souvenirs from charity shops along the way, despite being very disappointed by what was on offer in Queenstown.  A bit pricey, darlings, they must have a better class of junk in Queenstown.  However, there were many treasures to be found in other places.  

The winner of the best town for bargains category would have to be Timaru, where this wonderful tablecloth leapt out at me from the 50 cent box, it has such a colourful confidence and with its cocktail themed images it will make a brilliant backdrop for Mr Shoestring’s cocktail shakers. 

I suspect this wonderful 50s tea towel (in perfect condition, Irish linen and as vibrant as the day it was woven) may have come from the same kitchen. 

 As a souvenir of our travels in the South Island this couldn't be beaten, though I do wonder why the Nurses’ Home was included as a scenic attraction.  Most odd, but perhaps it was a very moderne and daring building when it was built? 

 We did visit Caroline Bay and it was just as splendid as portrayed here 

 My word, isn't that aeroplane just the last word in modern air flight?

This linen tablecloth was partly embroidered but as I would never be able to match the colours I planned to unpick the cross stitches already started (there were only two of them) and instead embroider a selection of motifs, possibly various teacups and kitchen implements in a green shade to match the woven grid.  The hard work had been done for me already because the industrious former owner had tacked the hem in place and even mitred the corners (a particularly tedious and loathsome task), so it was even more of a bargain (at $3) than originally thought.  But the ghastly realisation came to me (as I spent a frustrating afternoon laboriously unpicking) that $3 was far too much to pay for this linen, because the effort required to unpick was vast.  Never again, never again!

 In Dunedin this enormous enormous tablecloth complete with 12 matching napkins was too good to resist, though I think it may have to be repurposed and used as a bed covering because the diminutive tables at Shoestring Cottage and in our apartment in town would be completely swamped by such an enormous cover. 
 Perfect condition still, somebody has treasured it for decades

After the wool appliqué bed cover the next project I have planned is going to be a crazy quilt made from doyleys and damask napkins so it was excellent to find this selection of damask napkins in various op shops.

Though I am ashamed to say that in one shop I was the victim of a good saleswoman (I know, who would have thought, in an op shop in a small town in the South Island?) who confided in me after my initial purchase that a wonderful cardigan had come in just that day which was surely brand new, never worn, quite gorgeous, etc.  I hastily protested that I was on a strict budget and couldn't afford $4, (because it really did not appeal one jot), at which point she said, “Oh dear, how much can you afford?” and I felt compelled to buy it! 

I could have gone crazy in the crockery section but of course we had to bring our treasures home with us on the plane so it wasn't feasible.  Just as well, because as it was we had to but an extra bag to bring home all the booty.  That enormous tablecloth was surprisingly bulky and heavy, which I hadn't taken into account at the time of buying.  Then there were a couple of pairs of shoes for art deco weekend and a miscellany of other objects too good to leave behind.  

The other recent acquisition was this cross stitch piece, laboriously completed in cross stitch using stranded cottons by some unknown person.  Personally this painting never appealed to me - there seems to be an air of gloom and foreboding and general despond.  But surely there is something useful to be made out of this piece - I just don't know what it is yet.  It seems a pity that after all the effort and hard work by its stitcher, it was sold for $2 in a Salvation Army shop.  

Mrs Peaceable has kindly given me some quinces and I am hoping to make a delicious quince vodka liqueur.  If it turns out to be a success we will have some very interesting and fruity cocktails.  The scent of the quinces is sweet and aromatic, if it imparts itself to the vodka the bouquet will be very special.  (I will post the recipe if it works out so you can make your own version.)  I suspect that the return gift of some new season Jerusalem artichokes may seem a little pedestrian by comparison.  There is obviously going to be a bumper crop this year, much to my dismay; at this rate the Jerusalem artichokes may starve out all the other plants in the front border and block the sun, they really are reaching for the sky.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Visit To The South

The dreary monotony of life in the “real” (i.e., non deco) world was alleviated for us when we went for a journey to the Deeeep South this week.  We started at Queenstown and had a few days there.  Whereas the countryside around Shoestring Cottage in the Waikato region of the North Island is of a domestic and cosy nature, the landscape in that part of the South Island is altogether more imposing and on a grander scale.  The sky curves overhead like an enormous bowl and the mountains seem to be bursting from the earth in the form of solid rock, rather than being gently sloping and covered with lush vegetation.  Even the quality of the light is somehow more intense.  (Mr Shoestring explained to me that it was all to do with latitude and the sun, but my eyes glazed over and I began to feel a little unwell, similar to the feeling you get when you think about infinity for too long.)


While in Queenstown we travelled on the TSS Ernslaw, the vintage steamship which turned 100 last year.

She took us across the darkening waters at dusk to the Walter Peak Station and we enjoyed the beautiful gardens where the roses were still flowering as though it was spring time.  

After dinner there was a chance to see the sheepdogs working the sheep and watch some shearing.  Also there was a litter of beautiful sleek puppies, watched over diligently by their mother when she was not rounding up the stragglers.  There are some good walks around Queenstown and a trip to Arrowtown is worthwhile to see the old cottages from the days of the gold rush

and the remains of the settlement where Chinese immigrants hopeful of making their fortune and being able to return to their families and loved ones in China lived out their days, poor things. 

One part of the South Island which charmed us was Invercargill.  This was surprising because it is often the target of ridicule and harsh jokes.  Perhaps because it was a beautiful warm still evening when we arrived and we found ourselves at Queens Park things seemed more than usually fetching, but for whatever reason we were pleasantly surprised.  The strange thing about Queens Park (and something I have never heard of before) was that the park itself is enclosed by a golf course, increasing the feeling of size and expansiveness. 

Apart from the park there was also the fact that Invercargill has a high proportion of well preserved Victorian and deco buildings and Mr Shoestring indulged ourselves by playing the peculiar game we have developed which involves going for a long walk and pointing out the most picturesque homes and selecting the ones we like best.  This phase lasts up to and including the point where a particular breed of imaginary dog has been selected and a new life has been mapped out for the participants, and modifications and improvements made to the home and garden selected.    This is followed by collecting two copies of local real estate brochure at which point the players sink down onto a comfortable seat and spend a happy time turning the pages and murmuring things like, “Turn to page 21, what a beauty in the top right hand corner!  And look, very reasonably priced too!”  This goes on for some time until the invariable ending of the game, where we both turn to each other and say (as if it was the first time such a thing had occurred to either of us), “But what would you do for work in a place like this?  There must be virtually no employment here!”  And so it goes on. 

This was my favourite building.  Who would have the confidence now to put an enormous representation of some random bird on their building just because they thought it was exceedingly pretty?

Mr Shoestring in particular adored the long rolling rrrrr of Invercargill residents.  The first time he came back from the motel reception office he mentioned how attractive it was, then he went back shortly afterwards for some extra milk and once again praised the dulcet tones of the rolling Southland r.  Fortunately he did not continue on in this fashion and wear out his welcome, possibly because he could not think up any more reasons to visit reception. 

Oamaru was another attractive town, particularly because of the imposing Victorian buildings hewn from the local stone.  Most of them had survived and were glowing warmly in the late afternoon sun.  Then it was on to Timaru, larger and more prosperous but with far less stone buildings. 

Last of all to visit was Christchurch, where we saw the sad reminders of the earthquake; the demolished and partially demolished structures and the vacant land where redevelopment has not yet started.  Also there was the inevitable problem of traffic jams because of the diversions in place while areas are worked on.  If the earthquake causes a major rethink of building codes and the need for strengthening and/or reinforcement of the historic buildings around the country it seems as though many of them would be demolished because of financial considerations, and what a tragedy that would be.  Look at the character of these buildings and try to imagine what might be thrown up in their place if they were demolished.  The Victorian buildings in particular have such a confidence in the future and desire to be seen and admired, which makes them all the more endearing and enjoyable to look at. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Flying Visit To TCOTU

This weekend Mr Shoestring and I went on a flying visit to Napier to attend a special event.  Having complained about Post Delightful Event Disorder and the need for treats to aid in readjusting to “real” life, this was just what was needed.

The Queen of the South and her King have recently abdicated their southern throne and (fortunate creatures) relocated to Napier (also known as The Centre Of The Universe or TCOTU), where they have eagerly adopted new stations as The Duke and Duchess of Ringloes.  Their new home has been transformed into a light and airy treasure trove, and the garden also has been recreated and is now a kind of tropical paradise complete with lush banana trees, bromeliads and many unusual and obscure plant specimens.  They treated us to some wonderful hospitality and spent some time walking around the nearby streets, peering into houses and picking out the ones we would purchase were we fortunate enough to be able to move to TCOTU.  Some residents were possibly nonplussed to see us shamelessly peering through their front doors and into their gardens, but took it very well. 

The event the Duke and Duchess took us to was a strawberry tea at Duart House (built in 1882), in Havelock North.   How comforting to be back in art deco attire and to be surrounded by similarly attired kindred spirits.  The music was provided by Robert Cross of the New Mayfair Deconians who had a perfect voice for the era, and who played genuine instruments such as a 1931 four string guitar and a banjolele (which he used to great effect). 

The gardens were magnificent and though it is very late in the season the roses were blooming profusely.

 A never ending parade of scrumptious food and hot tea was brought out by waitresses in their 1930s style caps

and the strawberries (which must surely have been the last of the season) had come from a local strawberry garden.

We were all mightily impressed by this beautiful costume, which was created using an original 1931 pattern

and wished we possessed a car such as this one to make a stunning entrance.

There was even a croquet court which is still used by the local croquet club.  Mr Shoestring longs to play croquet (which is apparently a surprisingly vicious and strategic game), and gazed admiringly at the well maintained court. 

There was time for some gentle shopping as well and I had to dash back to the shop where I found this little plate and buy it before we sped off the the next store.  I love Melbourne and this brings back happy memories of days spent there.

Also there was a pair of hand crocheted cuffs to adorn a sweater for the cooler weather which surely must be on its way.

One of them is quite badly stained and I don't know if a session with lemon juice will remove the rusty marks.  Perhaps I shall have to resort to using Napisan - though I can just imagine the whole thing disintegrating before my eyes and I had better be cautious because I am usually of the "If a little's good a lot's better" school of thought where laundry and cleaning products are concerned.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Home Improvements - They Never End

When I bought this colourful vase from an op shop I thought it would look good in Autumn with some zinnias in it.  Autumn is officially here now but a drought has been declared, so it is just as well that resilient zinnias were the preferred blossoms - nothing much else is thriving in the garden and watering restrictions are in place.  The zinnias flower on undeterred though and are offering a great return on the price of a packet of seeds.

One other thing which is doing frighteningly well is the ever increasing jungle of Jerusalem artichokes.  Despite warnings about their tendency to become invasive I put some in last season, and when I harvested them congratulated myself that I had removed all the tubers that I could find, thinking that if any had escaped detection I would have a crop the next season.  The number of plants this year is much greater, but of even more concern is the fact that they are romping skywards (Jack's beanstalk had nothing on these giants) and as the flower buds are only forming now it seems that they might reach four metres.  They are well over three metres already.

Mr Shoestring has carried on manfully with his home improvement projects this week.  It has to be said that he is somewhat inclined to rush off in all directions, starting new projects as the mood takes him.  This week he was so pleased with the new front door knob and lock that he impulsively decided to line the front porch and do away with this lining.

He is recovering it with this instead, which will be much easier to keep clean (once it is painted) and I have to admit it will be a great improvement.  And when I said to Mr Peaceable that I was a bit worried about Mr Shoestring's propensity to start projects before finishing the ones he had already started, Mr Peaceable pointed out to me that a person with a sewing room which looked like mine should not make such observations.  Fair point, fair point.  (Though I do think that boys tend to stick together, wouldn't you agree?)

As well as working on lining the front porch Mr Shoestring has drained his new pond and fitted a light.  I was somewhat mystified by this, but somebody made a passing remark that it would be nice to have a light in the water and before you could say "hey presto" Mr Shoestring dashed off and bought a light, drained the pond and installed it.  I foolishly made a joke by asking him, "Does the light change colour?  That would be nice!" Of course he replied, "No it doesn't change colour but I could find a way to make it change colour."  I really must take more care or we are never going to come to the end of the pool improvements.  He has mentioned that he has another light to install in the pool and that it could be arranged to shine up through the water at the lion's head.  My lips are sealed henceforth on the subject of pool accessories.  

When we were in Napier for art deco weekend Mr Shoestring was thrilled to find these postcards of our town in years past.  The view has hardly changed almost all the old buildings are still there.  Next time we get a chance we will take some views from the same spots so that we can compare.

But for now we are fully occupied because our oldest daughter and her fiance are visiting from London and we have been socializing and generally showing ourselves a wonderful time.