Monday, April 25, 2016

Rat Pack Party At The Putaruru Hotel

An opportunity to bring out the most special hat, the needlework bag, and the sparkliest of jewellery.  Who could ask for more?

I know I have waxed lyrical in the past about the raffish faded glory of the Putaruru Hotel, and whenever I pass through that part of the country I feel the need to veer off the state highway and inspect it, just to make sure everything is still in place.

In the bathrooms there are special places set into the walls for gentlemen to dispose of the razor blades from their safety razors.  This causes much consternation as people imagine them plummeting to the foundations of the building, but perhaps there are little containers behind the metal plates so that they can be removed when full.

The fact that the Writing Room and Telephone Room still have their glass doors in place denoting their functions charms us, and the grand sweeping staircase always looked like the perfect location to take photos at a really special dress up party.

Help, I think I have entered a time warp!  Take me back to 2016 before it's too late!

This year, being a 1958 baby and turning 58 as well, it seemed the perfect opportunity and so we booked the hotel out and had a Rat Pack 58 from 58 party.  Luckily friends and family are accustomed to the command to dress up there were three other 58ers to celebrate with to make it extra special.

Here we are cutting the magnificent cake, which was kindly made for us by Lisa and Joanne, it was a lemon syrup cake and it was delicious.

All the staff at the hotel made us very welcome, in fact I think they may have been almost as excited as we were. They went out of their way to provide cocktails from the period including the Atomic Cocktail we requested, which was extremely potent.  The chef designed a fabulous menu and created his own pate along with a great selection of main courses and puddings to choose from.  The next morning there was a hearty breakfast menu also.

Mrs Peaceable brought her flowers for the foot of the grand staircase, and Lady Raglan helped out with tealight candles and lanterns to decorate the dining room.  So much help from family and friends made it a pleasure to arrange and the venue looked magnificent.

Alie Doevendans was our hairdresser for the day and gave us a creative selection of hairstyles, which was made the ladies feel even more special and period appropriate.  Some of the gents tried to muscle in on the action too but Alie had to admit there wasn't much to be done with their hair, since it was too short to style.  She kindly offered to perk them up a bit with some colour (purple and green were suggested), but they demurred.

Finally we had our wish fulfilled, celebrating on the grand staircase after thinking about it for so long.

 Men in evening dress really do make a girl feel special.

 We had the use of the splendid private bar with its gorgeous lighting and wood panelling for the evening.  

Now that it's all over we are already thinking of our next big event and wondering what to do next time.  Thanks everybody for making it such a happy time and adding to the sparkle and lustre!

A very strange thing happened at the birthday party.  One of my friends gave me this first day cover from the year of my birth, and it was addressed to a person living only metres from where I lived as a child, which she had no idea of.  I love the way it proclaims "Youth - Foundation of the Empire", which seems to have come from another age and time entirely.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bakelite - Mr Shoestring's Enduring Passion

Mr Shoestring has always had a fondness (some might describe it as almost unhealthy) for bakelite, the early type of plastic which usually looks like a kind of imitation of tortoiseshell, brownish/black in colour.  He was thrilled to his fingertips when a friend of his donated this most peculiar looking heater, which he believes probably dates back to the 1940s.  Its top is that lovely washed out green shade so beloved by designers at that time (and presumably by the consumers as well as there is still so much of it to be seen).  It wasn't in working order but he eventually prevailed and got it to work again, and this weekend we tested it out.  (Things weren't as straightforward as that might sound, because in the process of repairs there was a very nasty incident which involved the power being shorted out by Mr Shoestring's actions but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.) The lovely thing about the heater (one of many lovely things, Mr Shoestring would insist) is that it glows orange when operating, and has a fan spinning around which makes an orange flickering light probably supposed to represent flames, very endearing.)

It looks like the shape of a spacecraft, or what people in those times might have imagined a spacecraft to look like. 

This is my favourite piece of his bakelite collection, a Michelin man ashtray which I think must have been a promotional giveaway, but he has all kinds of other pieces including pen trays, cuff link boxes and so on.

 Mr Shoestring's favourites would include this mysterious thing - we can only guess what it was for, but maybe it was off an old gas stove and "Pilot" refers to a pilot light.  

He also loves this little piece designed for holding pieces of memo paper, helpfully labelled in case the users forget what they are dealing with here.  

This weekend I found these two beautifully cut yet still sturdy crystal glasses at our local op shop (for which read treasure trove), and when I showed them to Mr Shoestring and commented that they would be ideal to use in the crystal sculptures we have been so much taken up with he declared that they were far too good for that and would be excellent whisky glasses (he is a whisky drinker, whereas I am not).  We had a little discussion about this and after I agreed we could keep them and not use them in the sculptures I decided I had better take up whisky drinking.  Progress on more garden sculptures is ongoing but I suspect Mr Shoestring is losing interest so I had better use up all the pieces in my stock before he abandons the project altogether.

I made good progress on decorating the old bottle green woolen jacket this weekend.  (The photo doesn't do justice the shade of the wool, actually.  My camera and I are at odds about the desirability of bottle green and I had to admit defeat in the end.)  This bird still needs to have its legs added and I am a bit uncertain as how to do that best (it may end up sitting on a nest if I can't figure out how to give it some realistic looking legs, or perhaps it could wear gumboots).  The twig in its beak is going to have cherry red berries once I can locate my red wool.  The wool which has been dyed using old blankets has been great fun to work with, and dyeing is half the fun because you are never quite sure what shade you will end up with and if you put in pieces of several different coloured blankets there are some very interesting results.  Sadly though, I'm not the only person scouring op shops for old woolen blankets and they are more difficult to come by now.  Only last weekend I missed out on a couple at a market because I was too slow off the mark, dithering around wondering whether I really needed any more.  

It has been such a beautiful warm autumn that the brugmansia is still laden with flowers, which surely isn't usual for this time of year.  (Note very attractive lace effect on the leaves from some unidentified chewing pest.)

There are still monarch butterfly caterpillars on the swan plant and if they don't get a wriggle on and make their chrysalises soon they may be overtaken by an early frost,

The camelias are out already though.  This is my favourite one (I must start keeping plant labels because I would love to know its name).  The petals are like tissue paper and the stamens are a most intense golden shade.

It was sitting in this lovely saucer; the saucer is hidden by the cup usually but how pretty to have even the inside of the cup and saucer decorated, it would make tea more special.

Once again it's quince season so soon we can make some quince vodka for next summer.  The quinces are very attractive in a way, furry and oddly shaped, with fur on them.
And also sadly Jerusalem artichoke season.  Yesterday when I was wrestling with the weeds I was astonished to find so many of them and felt compelled to locate and remove as many as possible - not just to eat them, but to prevent the garden from being overtaken with them next season.  This week we will have to try to discover some different ways of eating them, as it has proved impossible to give them away.  

One last thing I must share (before it passes out of my mind forever, as things tend to do) is that I recently discovered that the wonderful herb basil grows from cutting,  This was quite by accident, as I took pieces back to town and put them in water to use later in the week.  Having gone away for a few days I was surprised to see that they had taken root, so now I am taking cuttings of the last of the crop in the hopes that if I pot them up and put them on a sunny windowsill we may have fresh basil to use in the depths of gloomy winter, what a luxury.  

Here you can see the roots forming on the plants in the left hand side of the picture.  Who knew?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Purpling Of The Garden - and Everything Else Also

I'm sure I must have mentioned before that once upon a time the plan was to have a serene and restful garden at the back of Shoestring Cottage. One with lots of white flowering plants with heavenly scents which would perfume the entire garden, especially on summer evenings when fortunate visitors and inhabitants alike could sit and enjoy the atmosphere, inhaling the heady scents and watching as the darkness advanced and white blossoms glowed as though illuminated.  Well, that was the plan but for some reason things haven't turned out that way at all.  Mind you, I do know that white gardens aren't universally admired (I once knew a man who said they looked to him as though the place was festooned with pieces of toilet paper, which I thought very uncharitable though imaginative of him), so maybe the best approach from here on in is to just let the garden grow anything which does well. (Apart from weeds of course, standards must be maintained as the Duchess of Ringloes reminds me.) I was initially disappointed as the Japanese anemones (or wind flowers as they are also called, such a pretty name and it is meant to signify the fact that they only bloom when the wind is blowing) which were in the garden when we moved in, and which I fervently hoped would be white, all turned out to be pink.  Though I should just be grateful as this is the first year they have actually deigned to put forth more than a few insignificant flowers, and I'm crediting the improvement to the liberal applications of coffee grounds and compost to the garden.

I can't quite decide when the purpling started.  I think it began with an innocuous purple bugle; it's always more interesting to have the less ordinary version of a ground cover and from there we moved on to tradescantia (also a more interesting variant, or so it seemed at the time),

 and then I had plant envy and had to have a purple taro like my mum's.  The plant had come out of its pot and split into pieces, so at planting time I dotted them around the garden and every piece seems to have survived, contributing to the purpleness.

It continued with coleus adding yet more purple - this is only one of the many purple types we have at present.

and the spotty polka dot plantscontributing also to the general all round purpleness of everything. 

A sage which had been described to me as being a "soft pink" by an enthusiastic market vendor turned out to be a lurid shade more on the purple side of the pink spectrum

and these impatiens which were in a punnet marked "white" definitely are a pinkish purple also.  And a very strident and assertive colour, not at a soothing shade. 

Turning my attention indoors in an effort to escape the purple storm in the garden I noted the streptocarpus which were in flower were also pinky purplish.  Here are the last few blooms, thankfully they are shutting up shop now for the autumn and we won't see any more blossoms for a while.  

Inside I have been working away on a reverse applique skirt (I see now that there is still the purple theme going on here) for winter.  This has been great fun to do, and very simple also.  I traced the outline of the swallows onto the merino fabric and placed (purple) silk behind the tracings, then sewed around the outline so as to hold the silk in place.  Chain stitch was added to cover the original machine stitching.  I put half a dozen swallows around the bottom of the skirt, some swooping down and some flying level or soaring upwards.  The results were very pleasing but it was a bit of a challenge to actually take the scissors to the knit fabric and cut away the top layer to reveal the silk beneath and I couldn't bring myself to do it for a week or so.  So far so good, and no signs of unraveling of the knit fabric around the edges.  

Also for winter I finished decorating an old boiled wool jacket (gaaaargh, a red tending more to the blue side of the colour wheel) which now has feather stitch around the edges and bottom of the sleeves, appliqued cotton fabric held in place with straight stitches and buttonhole stitch and gorgeous floral ceramic buttons.

A piece of ecru hand made lace appliqued onto the back also.  

The buttons reminded me of the art deco glass buttons I bought a while back and I was sorely tempted to abandon work on the jacket and play with them instead

They are so colourful and luscious looking!  And not a purple one among them either.

But another one of the garden sculptures was awaiting installation and after the disaster last weekend where one broke as it was being put into place this one needed to be installed and stop cluttering up the place.  There are half a dozen of them now and this one is probably the most fragile with the long slender component at the top.  

There are a few bits and pieces left over and they might be good hanging in the trees but that project will have to wait a while because the next woolen jacket is awaiting embellishing - and it's green!  Not a touch of the pink or purple about it, I feel some restful acorn leaves and browny yellowish orange shades might be in order as an antidote to the overwhelming purpliness of recent days.