Monday, April 29, 2013

Doilies and Damask - Drowning in a Sea of Sweetness

These must surely be the last of the roses - together with some autumn anemones.  You can see the sweet theme which was happening at Shoestring Cottage this weekend!

Perhaps influenced by my recent craving for a white garden, this weekend I disobeyed all my own rules and had to just make one sample block using my stash of damaged doilies and old damask napkins, as an experiment you understand, just to see whether it would be viable to make a whole quilt.  Because they were calling to me, because time is fleeting and we have to follow our urges where using up our stash of treasures is concerned, because they were so pale and pretty.  No, really because it was too tempting and seemed like more fun than dealing to the autumn detritus outdoors.

Four blocks later I had to take myself in hand and stop this indulgent behaviour and get back into the garden.    But there are still plenty of treasures to be put into the Doilies and Damask quilt and my fingers are itching to use them all and get started on the embellishing and embroidery.

I realised at the end of the session that I was saving my favourites and not using them, next time I shall force myself to take the scissors to them and put them to good use in the quilt blocks.  

Of course there was the usual search for the right kind of materials and embellishments.  For starters it seemed some of these ribbons would be useful, not the bright red ones but the pale ricracs and also

some of the pearl and glass buttons which have been hoarded for a rainy day.

By a happy chance the plant given to me by my mum for my birthday is a very unusual white hibiscus with a small but luminous flower.  It has been planted in a suitably luxurious hole with lots of fertiliser. There was also a white form of the "yesterday, today, tomorrow" plant but no flowers to photograph as yet.  

On ripping open the bags of leaves left to compost at the end of last summer there was a rich loam to spread about, though it was interesting to see how much difference it made if they had been in the sun and heat or not.  The bags which had been shaded hadn't yielded such good results.  I will be sure to put them all in a warm sunny spot this time, though it is a bit difficult to find a place where they get lots of sun but aren't too conspicuous in such a small garden.

As an antidote to the sugary sweetness of the doilies I had a bit of a play with the wool block with applique, a completely different feel and look.  But that's another story.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Autumn Harvests

Last weekend the weather well and truly broke and we had torrential rain but it was still very warm.  Mr Shoestring and I started our garden clean up while the rain came down all around us, which was quite pleasant after such a long dry spell.  Mr Shoestring found this unusual garden tool recently at the markets (red of course, his favoured shade) which is ideal for gathering up fallen leaves.  We are unsure as to whether that was its original purpose but it is engraved with a “Patent Pending” sign at the top of the prong and it is very handy. 

I would like to report that there was a dainty harvest of Jerusalem artichokes and that the result looked like this:

(Note the pretty floral mauve gardening gloves, a kind gift from The Dancing Queen)

But in reality the result was like this:

And that is after we pressed some onto Mr and Mrs Peaceable, The Canucks and my friend B2, all of whom looked rather dubious.  They all were insistent that they only needed a few and that they were unsure exactly what to do with them.  I am dreading what next year’s harvest will be like – they multiply by leaps and bounds even when we think we have removed all traces of them from the earth. 

Mrs Peaceable gave us some more of her fragrant quinces and we must get ourselves motivated and make the quince vodka and also some blackberry vodka to make the most of the short season of these delicious fruits. 

The warmth and rain has brought on a wonderful flush of field mushrooms and here is a shot of them in the paddock out at Mr and Mr Peaceable’s farm.  The taste of store bought mushrooms really can’t compare with fresh field mushrooms, what a treat we had with a Jerusalem artichoke gratin, field mushrooms and quince and apple pie for dinner.  Afterwards we had to lie back and quietly groan while we digested our meal, but it was worthwhile. 

The mushrooms really do grow in "fairy circles", you can see the outline of them here.

The other seasonal delight we have been loving is feijoas.  Daughter number three who is travelling around Asia has been emailing anxiously and enquiring as to whether the season has started.  We have to admit that it has and that she is missing a bumper crop.  I will post some recipes for all these short-lived autumn delights.  The feijoa sorbet is well worth a try, also the Jerusalem artichoke gratin. 


A random selection of the strange and extraordinary fungi which popped up in the garden after the warmth and wet

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Treasures From Thames

We sallied forth on a jaunt to Thames last weekend at Mr Shoestring’s suggestion.  I suspect Mr Shoestring had an ulterior motive – he wanted to pay a return visit to the dining table and chairs he saw in Paeroa last weekend, and Paeroa just happens to be on the way to Thames.  He did pay a visit and caress and stroke the said furniture, but could not bring himself to part with any money so that was a lucky escape for him.

What a lot of bargains we found in Thames.  There is a refuse station shop called “Seagulls” where we found a great compost bin.  Though we have a diminutive garden (really only pocket handkerchief sized and probably hardly big enough to be called a garden) it generates an astonishing amount of clippings, cuttings, weedings and prunings and the little rotating compost maker which I love so much is not able to keep up.  This “new” one is an Earthmaker.  It looks a bit like a giant hand grenade and it has three chambers.  You put the fresh material in at the top and it works its way down to the bottom, by which time it will be beautiful fragrant crumbly compost – that’s the idea anyway.  We have started the process already after our big garden clean up so I will be able to assess its capabilities in a few weeks, all going according to plan.  Also at the refuse station shop was a large collection of iris rhizomes (gold coin donation) which I couldn’t resist.  There is no indication as to what colour the flowers might be but it will be interesting to see how they fare and what colour the blossoms eventually turn out to be.  (So farewell to the tentative plan for a white garden?)

A completely different treasure unearthed there was this linen embroidered tablecloth ($2) which is only half embroidered.  Nevertheless it will be perfect to use in the new “Doilies and Damask” crazy quilt which is taking shape in my mind.  At opportunity shops there are often a selection of pretty damask napkins in pastel shades, but not very often is there a full set.  Now that I have so many mismatched pink, apricot, yellow and blue ones and a large selection of embroidered doilies and dresser sets, this could be the perfect way to use then all up in one fell swoop.

If only these projects worked themselves up into completed articles as quickly as they are formulated in my fevered imagination.  

At the Salvation Army shop there were two excellent bags of down which will be perfect for stuffing the pansy and cantaloupe needlepoints cushions too.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Colour Versus Calm

The last of the zinnias with some plums, red onions and lemons - luscious

It may be that I have overdosed on colour lately, what with the intense colours in the crazy quilt I have been toiling on feverishly in order to start the next one, and all the autumn flowers in the garden, not to mention the shades of the fruit, but for some reason I have a sudden craving for a white garden.  It started off innocently enough when it occurred to me that to complement the “new” front porch with its stained glass panels a row of simple box plants would look very smart.  Then it seemed logical to add some attractive white flowered plants to set off the box.  Woe is me though, all the lovely things which are already established at the front of the house, what would become of them?  It is a vexed question and perhaps the best plan might be to have a white garden in the back, around the pool.  Tricky, very tricky.  We gardeners are never happy with what we have accomplished; when we started the garden at Shoestring Cottage the plan was to use only cuttings and the very cheapest of plants from weekend markets and that was enough to warm the cockles of this gardener's heart.  But oh no, now there is the prospect of a more simple appearing but more difficult to accomplish pocket paradise.  

How serene and refreshing a simple white blossom can be

And how chic is monochrome embroidery, silk on silk.




White gardens are not to everyone’s taste though, it has to be said. Somebody I knew said they look “Just as if somebody has festooned all the plants in the garden with toilet paper” which seemed a little harsh, to say the least.  You do need a lot of self discipline if you are going to aim for a white scheme though, and I know that with the best will in the world I would end up sneaking in a few “extras” just because I couldn’t resist the description of some colourful blossom or because a thing was a free cutting and it seemed ungrateful not to give it a place to grow.  Then the floodgates would be opened and before long the carefully thought out white scheme would disintegrate into a spotty muddle.  Possibly better to stick with a muddle in the first place and welcome in all colours.  Also, white is not always truly white.  If you look closely at many white flowers there are a lot of underlying tints which would make it very difficult to get things just right.  Some serious thought would need to go into this scheme.  

In fact white gardens may be the gardening version of the “capsule wardrobe”, another thing which gives immense trouble when it is supposed to simplify one’s life.  The Dancing Queen is always the picture of sartorial chic and when I mentioned to her recently that I was thinking of attempting a capsule wardrobe she said, “But we have had this discussion before, and we agreed that a capsule wardrobe would never work for us!”  The reason it wouldn’t work for me of course is that I can’t bear to be restricted to a few tasteful garments which all work together and neither The Dancing Queen nor myself really believe all that old rope about making one LBD look completely different from day to day with the addition of a scarf, belt or different jewellery.  That is just balderdash and we need to face facts sometimes – my facts being that some days only a fifties dress complete with net petticoats will work while other days a land girl look with victory rolls is required.  Yes indeed, I shall need to think very carefully before committing myself to the white garden idea, or the capsule wardrobe for that matter.  It is a bit like that saying, "Less is more."  Everybody knows that whoever said that just had never had quite enough "more"!


Who could forego the pleasures of colour in the garden?  Probably not me, I have been kidding myself.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Dancing Queen Tours Her Northern Domain

The Dancing Queen and her King came for a visit this weekend and as she has a similar passion to mine for depression glass we went the market where it is sometimes to be found on a certain stall.  At first it seemed that the stallholders might not be there, but fortunately as we came closer we could see their lovely wares twinkling in the morning sun.  The Dancing Queen made very kindly bought this lovely green glass piece for me – she has an identical one so now when I use mine I shall be able to think of its twin being used in my friend’s house, which is always very gratifying. 

 Fortunately The Dancing Queen didn’t go away empty handed, also finding some treasure for herself.  Mr Shoestring was over the moon when he located a heavy metal shoe making form, which he intends painting a glossy black and using as a door stop. 

That night we all went for a soak in a private pool at the hot springs, causing the water to overflow as we got in and having a very good time talking and laughing, until the little warning bell rang to let us know that our time was up.  We tottered out to the reception area with our prune like skin and ambled home down the hill through the balmy night air.  It is still unseasonably warm and we didn’t need to worry about chilling off on the way home at all. 

On Sunday we couldn’t resist driving to Paeroa where there are some great second hand shops and a few which stock vintage clothing as well.  Imagine how pleased The Dancing Queen was when she found the perfect hat for winter deco.  Her King said that of course she must buy it, if it cost less than $20.  We didn’t like to disappoint him so we wisely kept quiet about its real cost.  I was particularly smitten with this device which I spied on display in the window of one shop.  It seems to be an archaic form of “tea’s made”, so deco and it would have been the height of modernity when it was made.  It seems to be in perfect condition too and I can picture some long ago person saving it for “best” and never actually using it.  I didn’t even enquire about the price because it is obviously a treasure, but what a wonderful addition it would be to an art deco interior. 

Mrs Peaceable’s quinces are ripe (that sounds a bit rude but I ensure it is not) and she has given me some so that I can make quince vodka.  I will post the recipe so that you can have a go if you have some quinces to spare.  Because quinces are so fragrant I feel sure the end result will be delicious.  There is just the question of holding off for a few months before sampling the end result!  I shall have to be careful to record the date of creation so that we know when the vodka will be ready for supping. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Deco At Highwic

It was a great relief to see that the fish were all alive and swimming, though to be honest they leave a little bit to be desired in the pet affection stakes.  For some reason they spend all their time (as far as we have been able to ascertain so far) at the bottom of their pond, refusing even to surface to eat their fish flakes.  We have to put our faces very close to the water and peer into the depths, counting to see whether all are still present and alive.  They just flutter their fins very faintly and that is the only sign of life we can observe – they don’t even do a quick lap or two of their new luxury accommodations.  I fear it will be some time before they are leaping through blazing hoops above the water’s surface and they definitely aren’t in the market for a gentle tickle of their sides.  All in good time, perhaps they are just slowly learning to feel at home in their new environment. 

This week daughter number three gave me these two gorgeous pieces from the Salvation Army op shop near her work, one each for my green and pink glass collections.  She has a great eye for spotting treasure, in fact she can go into an op shop with you and come out with items you never even noticed and which would be perfect additions to your collection.  I don’t know how she does it because she never dashes in ahead or tries to elbow you out of the way –  she has some kind of treasure radar! 

The front door has its new glass in place and it looks more handsome.  It didn’t turn out to be a very economical project because the red and green glass was rather pricey, but the effect combined with the stained glass panels in the front porch is just what we hoped for.

Also the pretty etched glass above the door looks much better now that the old bits of paint have been removed from around the edges. 

It takes a lot to lure us away from Shoestring Cottage on a Sunday but this weekend we had to make an exception because there was an art deco afternoon at Highwic House in Auckland.  It turned out to be a wonderful event.  We went along with Senor and Senora Valentino (who provided the most scrumptious comestibles) and there was dancing, croquet, a fleet of magnificent vintage cars 

and fabulous glad rags to ogle.  A local bike shop had arranged a “tweed run” so some people had come on their vintage bikes.  There was a fashion competition (one class for the ladies and one for the gentlemen).
I don't know exactly what these competitors were discussing, but the gentleman in the centre was the picture of sartorial elegance and also a bit gangster

The ladies were very amiable, even though competing for the top prize

This lady did not compete but every detail of her ensemble was perfect!
A fine figure of a gentleman

 Senor Valentino was proud as a peacock when he won the dancing competition and Senora Valentino was relieved that she had not entered it with him as she had a modest opinion of her talents, but there I believe she was mistaken. 

The steal jam where dancers interrupt and "steal" themselves a partner

Highwic is in Newmarket very close to a motor overpass and surrounded by busy roads but it has a  peaceful atmosphere and is set in a hectare of grounds.  It was interesting to revisit the house and admire the way it has been preserved.  Mr Alfred Buckton, the original owner, had 21 children grow up there and it was added to over time.  The style is wooden Gothic and building began in 1862, and it was extended in 1873.   The boys all shared a room which being directly under the roof was very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter.

The girls had a more cosy bedroom and one of them (Florence) etched her name into the glass. You can just see it in the centre of the pane here.  

  This tea cosy with beaded swallows was one of my favourite things in the house, 

but this dolls’ house came a close second.  

And then there was the  crazy quilt dressing gown or robe - who could resist it?