Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making A Rod For One's Own Back

When I was a first time mother I had what in New Zealand is known as a plunket nurse.  This formidable lady's job was to visit new babies and their families and check that all was as it should be.  My particular nurse was an "old school" type who struck fear into my heart whenever a visit was due. (Part of their job was to bring a set of scales and weigh the baby to see if it was putting on as much weight as it should, and how shameful if you failed that test!  The baby's growth was plotted on a graph for easy comprehension of success or failure, as measured against the average weight gain for babies nationally if my memory serves me correctly.)  My plunket nurse had some very definite beliefs, for instance the new mother should drink stout in the afternoons and eat plenty of raw peanuts in order to increase the production of breast milk.  She also advised me to wear Savoy cabbage leaves inside my already hideously utilitarian beige coloured nursing bras.  (I think there was a legitimate reason for this but it definitely not a very alluring look.)  Anyway, one of her other beliefs was that a baby should be left to cry and not picked up, and she sternly told me, "You are making a rod for your own back" if she caught me picking up my howling first born.

For years I forgot all about this archaic "rod for your own back" saying but it has come home to me recently in a very strange way.  In the Habitat for Humanity store I was having a lovely outing with my mum.  We are ever so slightly competitive in case one of us finds a treasure the other would covet, so we tend to separate upon entry and make our way around separately.  I happened to find the most enormous part completed needlework canvas and was looking at it despairingly, thinking that it was a shame somebody had lavished so much care and attention on a thing which obviously was never going to be completed.  And which was hideously unattractive and drab.

The original worker had been very systematic and stitched only on a particular area, with commendable discipline.  (I would have been hopping all over the place, filling in the most pretty and colourful parts and been left with a whole lot of brown and green to do at the end.)

Here you can see the demarcation line where stitching ceased.

Row by row the canvas has been worked, with never a deviation to a more interesting area.  
Once my mum saw the canvas she insisted that I had to buy it, after all it only cost $4!  What a bargain.  Only when I got it home did it occur to me that there were hundreds of hours of work left to complete it and in a light bulb moment I thought, "Aha, this is what it means to make a rod for your own back!" 

The colours are rather dull and dreary, the tropical parrots look like blobs of colour

and the castle looks more like a mud slide.

I have dragged the canvas out and shown it to all in sundry, hoping for some miraculous solution to the problem.  Madam La Post suggested I turn it into a New Zealand scene and convert the birds into moa and pukeko.  My mum came up with the idea that everybody who visits Shoestring Cottage must do a few stitches, in order to lighten the load.

But I do very much like the look of some of the unworked parts of the canvas.

The vegetation could look very lush and tropical with the addition of some more vibrant colours, I feel sure.  Maybe some gold thread in the feathers of the birds and if I made the eyes with smaller stitches so that they were more defined?

 And I like the design of the borders (luckily not worked yet).

It surely could be saved with more sympathetic shades and a bit of imagination, not to mention hundreds of hours of feverish stitching.  Luckily I have all these left over wools my mum gave me ... perhaps this is all part of some wicked plan of hers?

The Takanini camellia I bought has turned out to be something of a disappointment.  Rather than the blossoms being a red so deep as to be almost black, they are appearing as a paler and more commonplace shade and I am wondering whether it is because they are getting too much sun?  I am also wondering if this bush is the same as another one which was already planted at Shoestring Cottage when we bought it.  Sigh.

Lord and Lady Raglan came to stay this weekend, and it was marvellous to catch up with them again. They have been very much taken up with their new estate since moving there, so do not leave home more often than they have to.  Lord Raglan is a man of intense but passing passions.  (A bit like Toad in The Wind In The Willows actually, now that I think of it.)  Over the years he has taken us on a journey through composting toilets, rainwater collection tanks, solar power generating for the home and various other things which exercise his imagination and make him into a campaigner.  This week the topic was electric cars.  He is convinced that Mr Shoestring and he should try to create one of their own.  (But why stop there, a complete fleet would be good.)  This is despite the fact that neither of them is a mechanic or electrical engineer, and that they do not possess a workshop or suitable tools between them.  No matter, these are trifling details and easily overcome no doubt.  In the end we took Lord Raglan to the private spa pool up the hill and put him in the water for a good soaking, and let him expound on the topic to his heart's content as we all nodded and agreed with all that he had to say about the wonders of battery powered cars.  To lighten the load we also took him to visit Mr and Mrs Peaceable at The Peaceable Kingdom, who were very tolerant of the idea of battery powered cars.  (It was a newer subject to them than it was to us, who had heard about it for quite some time already after all.)  Mrs Peacable plied him with home made scones, blackberry and apple jelly, farm fresh cream and many cups of tea which gave him pause for thought and meant that he had to stop talking from time to time, so than you very much Mr and Mrs Peaceable.  The visit to see the new calves on a beautiful spring day was the icing on the cake, or the cream on the scone.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Winging My Way Back To The Blogosphere

Well I have to admit that I have been severely chastised of late because of my lack of blog posts and now that I look back it seems that it has been a good three months, which is very surprising to me. This will be put right immediately here is a picture festooned blog post to make up for lost time. 

Since my last missive winter deco has been and gone (sigh).  It proved to be a roaring success (well, how could it fail to be, Napier never disappoints) and as well as the usual suspects we met two charming ladies from the Deep South who were an inspiration.  They are shy creatures who would not like to be named in the public domain but suffice it to say that they were the picture of sartorial elegance and generous in sharing ideas for deco-ficication of clothing and accessories.  By the time winter deco was over I almost looked forward to returning home in order to start planning costumes for next year, which is no small thing.  

Shortly after returning from winter deco I was given this glorious original parasol/umbrella in rich burgundy tones.  It is of no practical use, as the fabric is perishing and going into holes in places, but folded up it looks most impressive.  

I had already been hankering after an ox blood red costume and at winter deco obtained an  ox blood coloured pair of leather gloves.  I already had a leather clutch bag, courtesy of St Vinnies (not too badly priced at $2) and one pair of shoes, but found another pair with a finer heel.

These things should all go together nicely to be the basis of a costume for next winter's deco - it is always so good to have a project on the go to keep one sane in between the deco days!  I have a couple of hats, (a fedora and a cloche), to work with, and a heather coloured tweed suit.  As The Dancing Queen reminds me, the hat can be the most difficult part so it is a good thing that isn't a worry this time round!

In case you should think I have been entirely taken up with my personal appearance I can report that a very good haul of priceless art works was obtained on the journey south.  This wonderful landscape features two cows which somewhat resemble dogs and also a sheep which looks rather like a blob of cotton wool and I was very taken with it when I spied it in the Taupo Salvation Army shop. Fortunately it was reduced to $4, so it was within my slender budget

and it looks very good with the other similarly toned landscapes it hangs with.  

But I think this one is my favourite from that excursion.  The colours and subject remind me of Rita Angus for some reason and I fear I will soon have to call a halt to this collection - the walls in the small rooms at Shoestring Cottage are groaning under the weight of them and there is very little space left unadorned.

Even so, I am very pleased with the look of them all together.  

At the same Sallies store I lashed out and bought this one too, thinking it would look good in the rose-festooned boudoir at SC.  When I got it home though the "white" roses were very blue and looked better in the bathroom.  No matter, that was one room which did have a bit of space left for paintings so it all worked out well in the end.  

These had recently been given to Mr Shoestring as a gift and they had the same "feel" as the painting in terms of vintage, so they sit directly underneath.  

This little doyley from 1922 is still in good condition and was languishing in Putaruru, just waiting for somebody to take it home.  The hand made lace around the edge is particularly fine and I can imagine a young woman toiling away on it for her glory box.

Mr Shoestring didn't come home empty handed either, he found a treasure trove of old postcards depicting his beloved Te Aroha, most of the buildings seen here are still standing.  

He is becoming rather discerning now and eschewed several of them for his own obscure reasons and after buying several declared that he had enough of them and would stop collecting them!  If only I had the same self control.  We were surprised to see that most of them were only addressed to a particular street with no street number added, maybe the posties were more knowledgeable and the populace less transient in those days!

Lest you suspect that Mr Shoestring has been neglected during all this feverish shopping I have to tell you that he obtained a magnificent fair isle vest for next winter deco in suitably muted tones

 but best of all I presented him with a wonderful smoking cap (here kindly modelled by Maud)

The leather label on the inside proudly proclaims that P Cohen, tailor, mercer, clother, hatter etc of 92 Willis Street (surely that must be Willis Street in Wellington) was the supplier of this wonderful item.  Next time I am in Wellington I will try to see what is at 92 Willis Street now, I doubt that P Cohen is still keeping shop at that location.
Also Mr Shoestring was presented by my mama with the lovely leather suitcase you can see to the left of the picture below, which still has its original luggage labels festooning its sides and top.  

And I couldn't resist showing off the cushion-made-out-of-a-teatowel which I have stuffed with feathers from an old down duvet.  Featuring Hawkes Bay of course.

Last weekend at Shoestring Cottage I put together some left over crazy quilt blocks and made a pinboard for the sewing room but now that it is finished it seems a shame to cover the embroidery up by sticking things all over the front, so it could well end up being yet one more picture hanging on the groaning walls.  

In the sewing room I am making superhuman efforts to keep things tidy because I recently located this in an op shop and with the help of Mr and Mrs Peaceable it was transported from Auckland to SC.  It wasn't quite the right colour for the sewing room, which had to be repainted and all in all a lot of trouble and bother followed on after the purchase of this "bargain".  It isn't even very practical, because the glass fronted cupboards mean that you can only really store pretty things in that part of it, nothing unattractive or utilitarian.  

 But how pretty it is!

 All the depression glass had to go in there, also the nice tins and containers with mother of pearl buttons

 the nice pieces of crochet and lace awaiting use
 all the labels from ties which are going to be used - for something - some day
and the prettiest floral china plates

I have in fact become a reformed character where my sewing room is concerned - no longer messy and untidy, as long as you don't open the doors on the cupboards, in which case you could be swamped by an avalanche of falling fabric.  

Outside spring is almost upon us and the garden is waking up again.  I have to confess to having carried out yet more inappropriate planting - this time it was something which purports to be a Himalayan Daphne, just like a daphne bush but growing to tree-like proportions (2.5 metres x 2.0 metres).  On the strength of two blossoms (which did indeed look like daphne and had a lovely fragrance) I have given garden space to this incomer - no doubt it will die a long, slow, lingering death in the garden while I anxiously nurse it and fret over it but such is the life of a gardener.  But being ever optimistic a gardener will always hope for the best and imagine the new plant creating a cloud of scented blossoms which will scent the entire garden, possibly the whole neighbourhood, and bring joy and delight to all.

Hoping you are keeping up with all the things which bring you delight even if you don't have the advantage of a deco obsession!