Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dreary Days


Winter has arrived, we had rain most of the weekend and even the cats were reluctant to go outside.  Poor Mr Shoestring had to toil away in the garden when it was dry because he had rashly carried out a radical cut back in the garden last week and had to take away all the tree limbs and greenery he had lopped.

I was bowled over because my mum had given me a second piece of Te Aroha souvenir china, which she found in her local opp shop.  (How is it she has found two pieces while I have never seen any?)  This piece has pretty yellow and white blossoms around the central decorative motif and was made in Germany.  It must be very old because only two buildings are visible, and the rotunda in the foreground is in a different position to the current one.  I was surprised to see that the "New Sanatorium" was supposedly in Te Aroha (Auckland), but then realised that this must refer to the province of Auckland, in those days when New Zealand was divided into provinces which were fiercely parochial.  I suspect that residents of Te Aroha would be offended if they were considered to be a part of Auckland now!

So now that I have two pieces of Te Aroha souvenir china I feel yet another collection coming on - very vexing as I am trying to cut back on these collections which mysteriously worm their way into Shoestring Cottage.

Last weekend we took our new little Fig over to the monthly Matamata markets and I was unable to resist these pieces of embroidery.

This Scotty dog has been very carefully embroidered by some unknown person and I love the way s/he lost interest before they completed the little skein of smoke coming from the chimney in the top right hand corner - I can understand how that last little detail would not be quite so enthralling after conscientiously toiling away on the rest of the piece.

At the other end of the runner is this scene - the Scotties complete with a thistle of course - and no incomplete embroidery.  This end was probably stitched first.

They set off my collection of scruffy and disreputable terriers so well!

From the same stall holder I got this most curious hand towel which seems to depict some sort of disgruntled fairy offended by the appearance of nearby flowers, or at least that is all I can make of this vibrant  embroidery - and look at how the colours of the flowers on either side have been transposed!  Such attention to detail.

Also these two pretty embroideries which will go into the latest crazy quilt - I am sure they were completed by the same embroiderer, the colours are identical.

A little further along my favourite stallholder had this amazing metal bowl, which will nicely hold the wools for this canvas work  

which is coming along very slowly and is doing my head in with all the colour changes.  Every few stitches demands a change of wool and I was ready to throw it out the window and into the rain this weekend, but persisted with it because otherwise how will I use up all those left over wools I was given?  

Mr Shoestring has developed a passion for red onions.  Every time he has to go to the shop for anything he comes back with yet another bag of them, "In case we have run out", and to keep up with them all I found a recipe for red onion soup.  (You can't just substitute them for ordinary brown onions in all recipes because they can discolour the dish.)  It is very piquant and tasty with the addition of some balsamic vinegar and as it uses eight onions, well worth trying out if you have a glut on your hands.  Just the thing for warding off coughs and colds in this horrible weather, give it a try if you aren't going to be closely confined with your fellow citizens in the next day or two.  Definitely not for those who are attempting long haul air flights though.

Apart from that, more quilting on the tumbling blocks quilt - another very slow project.  Roll on spring time!

Falling In Love Again

Some people are car people and some aren't.  I come into the second category; if you ask me what sort of car somebody has I am likely to be able to tell you the colour, but that's about the limit of my knowledge usually.  Cars are for getting you from one place to another and if they can do that without breaking down then that's about all you can ask.  A few years ago though I saw a photo of a car and it was a coup de foudre experience for me.  The car seemed familiar but wasn't quite like any car I had ever owned or seen.  It had a definite retro look about it but wasn't a genuinely old vintage.  It wasn't deco but it wasn't modern looking either.  I filed away this image in my already overburdened memory banks and vaguely thought that if I could choose myself a car (without being wildly extravagant, always being realistic and adhering to Shoestring Cottage principles of course), it would be that one.  Now I finally possess my dream car and I am falling in love with her.  She is a Figaro, a concept car released by Nissan in 1989 under the slogan "Back To The Future" when they were making a few "niche" models.  They came in four different shades and my little beauty is one of the grey ones (or lapis as the shade is called).  The four colours represent the four different seasons with grey being winter.  (Now that I have covered colour I can't think of anything much more to say about her.)

I suspected Mr Shoestring was slightly dubious to begin with but he has warmed over time and once he took her for a spin he was quite happy.  (Also I told him that Eric Clapton and some footballer who played for Mr Shoestring's favourite football team, Arsenal, had owned Figaros.  Which was true, I wouldn't fib to him about cars because he would find me out in the end.)  We can't think of a suitable name for our new baby but hopefully something will come to mind eventually.  I favoured Fifi at first but Mr Shoestring detests that name and says it reminds him of a French poodle rather than a car.  Then we tried Felix and looked up "fig" in various different languages, but nothing takes Mr Shoestring's fancy as yet.

Because of her retro looks I think a large silk headscarf (not so big as to cause any Isadora Duncan type mishaps of course), a large pair of cats' eyes sunglasses and even some driving gloves wouldn't go amiss when driving.  (Perhaps not for Mr Shoestring, just for me.)  The Dancing Queen suggested the final touch - a pastel duster coat.  It may take some time to work up to all these accessories because for now we are still becoming accustomed to the strange looks we get when bowling along on the open road with the top folded back.  Some people feel the need to drive alongside and try to figure out just what this odd automobile could be, or they come screaming up behind us, getting ever closer in the rear vision mirror and causing consternation.  Others grin broadly and give a thumbs up, but it is a bit unnerving to feel so conspicuous.  I am sure we will become impervious to this attention in due course and just enjoy ourselves.

The only other thing which is a bit bothersome is the fact that Mr Shoestring has become so keen on Figaro accessories that I fear he may want to give them to me as birthday and Christmas gifts.  A car is only a car, after all.  So far he has ordered a Figaro key ring and now he is wanting to get some "eyebrows" for above the headlights.   And possibly some chrome trim to go above the wheels.  All well and good, but not if it means foregoing lovely perfume and other more traditional presents!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Seasonal Feasting

After waving off the third of our offspring at the airport on Sunday morning we felt very despondent, but help was at hand.  Mr and Mrs Peaceable were marking the end of the shooting season by holding a banquet using some of the spoils of the hunting, and what a tonic it turned out to be.  Along with 30-odd other lucky guests we indulged in all manner of culinary delights.  We started off with marinated paradise duck breast (much more tender and tasty than I expected) and some grilled haloumi.  For the main course there was a choice of roasted wild peacock , wild mallard duck breast casserole , or common or garden chicken with wholegrain and raisin stuffing.  (Perhaps this last was provided for those amongst us with less adventurous palates.)  I sampled the wild peacock and was pleasantly surprised by how flavoursome and moist it was.  I can only compare it to chicken in flavour, but slightly stronger and more gamey tasting.  As well as great company and delicious food we had a tame banjo player in our midst who enthusiastically played selections from an enormous repertoire so all in all we were thoroughly spoilt. 

It must be the season for delving into recipe books or memories for comforting foods, now that the weather is cooler.  In the weekend I cooked up a pot of French onion soup, my ultimate go to meal when in need of succour in cooler weather.  The secret is to make sure that you caramelise your onions so that you achieve that rich golden brown colour which makes the final product so appealing to the eye.  I happened to have some vermouth in the cupboard so I used a dash of that, but if you don’t have it use a little white wine instead.  Fired up with enthusiasm after the French onion soup, the next day we had a Spanish peasant style soup with onions, chorizo, potatoes, garlic and Savoy cabbage which was a great rib sticker also.  I will post the recipes for these two great soups in case you feel like making some for yourself.   

Mr Shoestring was happy to find yet another red kitchen tool for his ever expanding collection – this excellent and sturdy lemon squeezer from the Salvation Army shop which set him back by 50 cents.  Also he was given a nice “new” colander with which he is very happy. 

As for myself, a kind work colleague had donated me a lot of old doilies and some damask napkins to use in the damask and doilies quilt, so I spent a happy time ironing and inspecting them all, and planning how best to use this unexpected bounty.  

Despite very varied shades used for the embroidery, these three all seem to have been worked by the same embroiderer, the stitches are very fine and the technique used for the flowers is identical.

This piece is uncompleted but I love the way you can still see the original stamped Semco Superior Needlework motif at the edge, where the lace or hem would have been applied.  I think I will have to try to include that part in the crazy quilt somehow, despite the fact that it is right on a raw edge with quite a bit of fraying.

The work on this piece is incredibly fine - just one thread used to embroider on silk gauze.  It will have to take a starring role.

But this one takes the prize for exuberant use of colour, no holding back with these blossoms.  Another star.

Madame La Poste gave me this cup and saucer a while ago - what a surprise when my mum coincidentally found a couple of tiny matching plates to complement it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Rainbow Crazy Quilt Finished At Last

After bidding a tearful farewell to the third fledgling to desert our fair shores there was nothing to do but submerge ourselves in distracting activities.  Mr Shoestring took to the front fence with a lot of white paint while I went indoors and attacked the rainbow crazy quilt squares.  One problem (for me anyway) with crazy quilting is that you are never quite sure when you are “done” – there are always a few more additions of beads, embroidery and ribbons which could be made.  But if I didn’t get the rainbow crazy quilt put together I wouldn’t be able to press on with all the others I had planned, so it needed to be done.  Plus which when I mentioned to a friend that it was hard to tell when you had enough embellishments on your squares she firmly told me that I definitely had reached that point.

The idea of a rainbow of colour in this crazy quilt was something which occurred to me but I had no example or model I was following so it was a bit of a mystery as to how it would turn out, and whether the desired colour wash effect would in fact eventuate.  When the quilt finally came together after much wrangling I have to admit that I am thrilled with the result, it is every bit as good as I had hoped and I have to stop in the doorway of the gypsy room from time to time and admire the result.  I was less fond of the red and blue coloured rows so I put them at the top of the quilt where pillows might cover a small amount of the quilt, 

while the green/orange/yellow rows were the most appealing to me, so I put them where they would be most visible.  

One thing I learnt was that it is best not to make your squares too large or you will end up cutting off and wasting some of your treasured embroidery and beading, which is what happened when assembling this crazy.  When I made some of the base squares for the quilt I couldn’t remember the exact dimensions I had originally planned, so erred on the side of large rather than small which I will try hard not to do next time.  One  serendipitous thing which happened is that some of the squares line up so that the lines of embroidery also match and run together, which reduces the effect of squares being put together and lends a more unified look to the whole thing.  Now that I have worked with silk for the first crazy quilt (hanging above the bed in the picture) and the rainbow crazy quilt, I don’t know if I will ever be able to go back to working with cottons.  Something about the texture of the silk and the rich lustrous colours is very appealing and for a colour addict like me the possibilities are endless!  Also there is the small matter of all the left overs still begging to be used up, and the fact that kind friends and co-workers have been donating old silk scarves and even pieces of their silk pajamas! 

Here are some of the areas of the quilt I was very pleased with. 

If you are wanting to spread your creative stitchery wings and not have to worry about counting and being exact and precise then crazy quilting could be just the thing for you.  There are lots of smaller projects which would lend themselves very well to crazy quilting, so it doesn’t have to be anything as large (and possibly daunting) as a quilt to begin with.  Jump in and give it a go!