Monday, June 29, 2015

The Dreadful Knock On Frugal Effect

I always had a hankering for some pretty chandeliers for Shoestring Cottage, despite the fact that she is a rather raffish and very modest cottage and not grand by any stretch of the imagination.  Having seen the modern ones on offer I knew they were way beyond what I was wanting to spend and so I was very pleased with myself when I found some languishing in a shop which was on the move, looking for a good home and not expensive.  

Mr Shoestring put in a lot of time and effort to bring them up to scratch but of course some of the fittings were missing which meant we needed to find another old light fitting to pirate bits off and reuse.  After the necessary stripping down of that light fitting we were left with this, the discarded remains of the light fitting reused for parts.

It seemed to good to toss it out and so the quest began for a new use for this leftover.  Perhaps I could decoupage it with pretty pictures and turn it into a plant pot?  Or maybe set it into the ground and use it to keep precious bulbs safe?  

All kinds of possibilities sprang to mind but then it occurred to me that being frugal has many hidden dangers, not the least of which is the “knock on effect” of things left over from other projects and the desire not to waste anything, and to put every remnant to good use.  Looking around Shoestring I realized there were bowls of buttons removed from garments before they were discarded,

pieces of broken jewellery waiting to be remade into other things,

 baskets full of left over crewel and tapestry wool,

scraps of patchwork fabric almost (but not quite) too small to be of any use whatsoever,

 pots of cuttings taken at pruning time,

not to mention the bits of damaged china waiting to be smashed up and turned into mosaics

 doilies for recycling and using in crazy quilts

 small blocks left over from patchwork quilts

on and on the list went.  This is where we need to start to be a bit firm with ourselves and ask whether we really do need another box hedge, and whether those pieces of fabric really are too small to be of any earthly use.  But it is always difficult to know where to draw the line.  Ruthlessness is the order of the day.  

Some things will definitely have to go.  But one thing I can never discard is my precious Farmers Trading Company catalogue from my nana, which is falling to pieces and has tissue thin pages and no cover.  If there was anything to save from Shoestring Cottage this would be it, I could spend hours poring over it and marvelling at the things people used to buy from all around the country, and apparently if they weren't satisfied their money was returned without question!  I think it dates from the early 1930s and maybe it is partly responsible for my fixation with all things deco, who knows?  

And looking out for signs of spring (the shortest day has passed at last) I was surprised to see this bird at my dear mama's place, instead of wishing to steer well clear of any chance of being caged it was determined to perch on top of her ornamental outdoor bird cage - even birds can be contrary and misguided we humans are not alone.  This bird was probably contemplating spring time and wondering how many recycled objects it could accommodate in its next nest,or that's what I like to tell myself anyway.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Big Red

In an effort to stem the flow of one inch hexagons seeping out of the sewing room (because now I begin to find them in the bottom of my handbag, lurking under the bed concealed amongst the shoes, in plastic snap lock bags strewn about the place and adhering to my clothes even), I banned myself from cutting a single extra one last weekend.  

Instead I have pressed on with Big Red, who is beginning to get ideas above her station and think she will take over the world.  (My friend Ma’am started a hexagon quilt which has similar ambitions, only hers can’t be “leveled up” and is growing ever larger as Ma'am struggles to find symmetry around the edges.  Her quilt ended up being named La Marquee because of tent-like proportions and she is even considering making a miniature version for her much loved cat, leaving the papers in of course because cats adore the rustle of the backing papers.)  For some reason when I commenced work on Big Red I thought that one unit was more enjoyable to make than the other.  (You can see that it looks rather complicated at first glance, but is really only composed of two units pieced together in strings.) 
 There is the long lozenge 
and the smaller hexagon shaped, but both surrounded by the neutral shaded blocks

She looks a bit wavy here but that is because of her enormous size and the difficulty in holding her up ready for photographing.   

Thinking ahead I somehow made more of the long lozenge shaped units, which were the ones which were more time consuming and less enjoyable to make, so now am left with “spares” which I will feel compelled to use somehow.  And so it goes on, the never ending process of using up all the various hexagons.   Maybe they could go into a couple of cushions for Big Red, only then of course there would be needed some others to complete the project….. aaargh. 

I did have some inspiration about using up all the one inch hexagons though, rather than just randomly continuing to join them together.  I found two sets of bag handles in my local Japanese bargain store (how I do love that shop) and I think they could be just the thing to use when making hexagon bags, rather than the old metal bag handles I had been thinking about. 

And while we are on the subject of favourite stores I have to recommend two unusual shops in Auckland which are well worth a look if you have time (or live in the vicinity).  The first is The Fabric Room which until recently was located near my apartment, in Parnell.  Whenever you call in there you will find not only the most wonderful range of luxury upholstery and curtaining fabrics, but also (and this is the best part) a bin with natural coloured and white linen remnants perfectly suited to embroidery and counted cross stitch.  If you are used to paying $60-odd per metre for something to embroider on you will be thrilled to find large sized remnants for only $10 or so, and you will be able to get several good sized pieces from each one.  If you want a fabric for the back of a needlepoint cushion you are sure to find something suitable too.  I was sad to hear they are moving to 715 New North Road, Kingsland.   But at least that is still quite nearby.

The other shop is completely different, called Red River Trading Company and there you can find a huge selection of wares imported from Asia.  (67 Maurice Road, Panmure is where you will find them.)  What took my eye to begin with was the enormous collection of kimono and obi which come in every colour and style you could dream up, some obviously very old and some more modern.  Most are silk and some are wool, and what a luxurious garment a silk kimono would make to lounge around in at the end of a busy day.  The enormous choice means you are bound to find one just perfect for you and they are very reasonably priced as well.  You can find boxes full of old pieces of silk and some of them have been lovingly darned and are worth buying just for the artistry in the darning.  Old sewing boxes, pieces of furniture, bric a brac, pictures made up of a few simple brush strokes, ceramics and old handbags, photos and amulets make up some of the other wares to pore over. Life is so much richer with just a tiny bit of magical retail therapy added into the mix.  Or if not retail therapy just an inspection of all the beautiful things on offer.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Eat Your Greens

I was horrified recently to learn that New Zealanders waste a good proportion of their food (I think it was in the 30% range but that could be a wild exaggeration, once my mind starts to turn over a statistic it is liable to increase if I am impressed).  I don't know about you, but I don't throw away much in the way of filet steak or salmon, it tends to be vegetables which are discovered moldering and slimy in the darkest recesses of the refrigerator.  I suspect that supermarkets are set out so that we go in and buy the things first which make us feel virtuous and we know we should be eating, and then we proceed through the more tempting areas where we find the things we would prefer to be gobbling up, and we put them into our trolleys as a reward for braving the horror which is supermarket shopping.

Recently the thing which was lying sad and unappreciated was spinach, or to be more precise two large bags of baby spinach leaves.  I can only surmise they were on special and two frugal members of the family availed themselves of the opportunity to bag a bargain.  Now spinach is one of those worthy vegetables which you know to be very good for you (think of Popeye with the bulging biceps, for instance) but which nobody particularly enjoys eating.  I still remember as a child being forced to eat every morsel of food on my plate (the starving children in Africa would be grateful for it, after all) and almost vomiting when spinach or silver beet was presented for my consumption.  Something about the texture, it seemed a bit gritty but slimy at the same time somehow.  Jack, the number four child and only one presently residing with us, is a particularly bad vegetable eater but even he admits that he will eat anything if it is presented in the form of soup, including vegetables.  So it seemed the best thing to do was to find two spinach soups for his delectation and see how we went from there. (We do eat a lot of Popeye Pie, made with spinach and feta and filo pasty, but he was getting wise to my tricks.)

The two recipes I fixed on were very different from one another, but each has proved to be a great success and I will be adding them to the repertoire of vegetable filled delights which are nevertheless enjoyed by all of us. The first recipe was Kumara Spinach and Coconut Soup, and the second was Spinach, Pea and Blue Cheese Soup.  They both sound a bit unlikely but are equally delicious.  I particularly liked the Spinach, Pea and Blue Cheese though, because the combination of the sweetness of the peas with the salty and robust blue cheese was really unusual and very delicious.  Also the colour was an intense green, almost looking radioactive in its luminosity, and it was like a jolt of summer to see it shimmering in its bowl.  In fact it looked rather unnatural but at least green is a real food colour, whereas blue never looks appetising.  (You don't need to find a gourmet blue cheese, any one which is on sale will do and if you picked up a bargain already in the supermarket you may well have a nice ripe one just waiting for this occasion.)  If you have been tempted by the spinach in the vegetable aisle and lived to regret it, do give them a go, both recipes are delicious comfort food for winter without feeling too heavy and they are very speedy to whip up too.

Bon appetit!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Malady Lingers On

I was determined that there would be no toying with hexagons at Shoestring Cottage this weekend, and on the first day of the long weekend (Queen's Birthday, good on you Lizzie) I did very well.  I got into the garden and repotted a lot of geraniums to ensure they survived for next summer, I planted up hanging baskets and generally turned my mind away from the thing which had been bothering me the most, the new possibilities of framing toile fabrics with baby one inch hexagons.

I have one Pelagonium sidoides (yes I know, isn't that clever, quoting correct botanical names?) which never disappoints.  It is an excellent doer and thrives in the sunny front garden.  It has scented leaves and insignificant white flowers but I was thrilled to find the one above with beautiful blood red flowers which I hope will prosper in one of the new hanging baskets.

Apart from that nothing much was looking floriferous in the garden, though in the front porch things were still quite good.

The hare's foot fern is attempting to take over all the coconut matting in its basket and I have hit upon a plan whereby I will use bent pieces of wire (or maybe hairpins) to stick the rhizomes into the coconut matting so that in time it will appear to be a solid ball of fern.  I hope it works because it could look quite spectacular.

The tradescantia (I think it is Tahitian Bridal Veil) hasn't received notification that it is winter and though you can't see it above, it is covered in tiny buds and should soon be smothered in blossoms.

On Sunday the rain came so I had to move indoors and play with beads, I am thinking I may make a couple of shoe pins using old earrings, the one on the left is the prototype but I suspect I won't have the patience to recreate it so may end up with two brooches instead.

I did make a start on trimming a hat for winter deco but somehow had left the hat behind in town and had to content myself with the ingredients rather than the main course.  Next weekend I will do better.

I have to admit to being rather pleased with myself on finding these plates (Habitat for Humanity never disappoints) to smash up for the mosaic in the back garden.  But when it came down to it,I couldn't bear to take the hammer to them so they might have to reside intact and indoors after all.

 Anything with birds has to be good

I think the crinoline lady is particularly pleasing; although you can't see from the photo she is a footed plate which would be very useful if I was in the habit of hosting garden parties where pastel coloured sugared almonds were served.

But these shoes really were the best buy this weekend, they are so beautifully made and perfect for winter deco.  I have a heather pink tweed suit which will be ideal to wear with them and though the heel isn't quite right (should be Louis), the rest of them is perfect.  

In the end though the old malady came bursting out once again.  I must have cut out hundreds of old silk tie hexagons, cotton hexagons and worst of all I gave in to temptation and cut out sets of 18 with which to frame toile scenes.  I wasn't going to admit it, but such was the case.  There really is no recovery from the hexagon fever once it takes hold.  I did take some photos but I won't include them because they only serve to prove that I haven't recovered at all.