Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rain rain and more tedious rain

These poor blooms were the last of the pretty things left in the garden this week, apart from the pansies which struggle on valiantly and some cyclamen which were relishing the torrential rain

and of course the trusty old bromeliads, which never say never. 

It's strange how when I started gardening at Shoestring Cottage I had definite ideas about what I wanted to grow there, but over time I seem to have abandoned my grand ideas and now am more than happy to accept anything and everything which is counted as a "plant" rather than a "weed".  It has turned out to be a lot more subtropical looking in most places than I ever would have anticipated, because those plants seem to give of their best and not sulk and demand too much attention and fuss.  

Even the insects came indoors searching out colour this weekend, this enormous wasp seemed convinced it was going to find nectar in the colourful beads crystals and pearls festooned about the light fittings.

At the opportunity shops this weekend there was a great haul of pretty china ready to be broken up for the mosaicing project which is on hold now until the weather improves.  

But looking closer at the dinner plates I brought home it seemed a shame to break them up and I'm wondering now whether I might be able to glue them in place whole and preserve their pretty images in their entirety.  The willow pattern one is a bit cracked but the other two are in good condition and I think they would look better in one piece.  

This plate matches some others I bought quite a while back and it seems a shame to use it for mosaicing

 and this one could easily go on with its strange little handle still in place and without being broken up.  I wonder if it was intended as a cheese plate perhaps, the little curved handle is rather unusual.

Walking along the road we were surprised to see a group of old Morris Minors on an outing and this one seemed to be the oldest of them, it had a split windscreen.  

 They all looked so appealing parked together with their various colours and trims, we had to stop and take a closer look. 

I found one more "bridge" picture to add to the ever-growing collection, I never suspected when I bought the first one that so many of them would present themselves to me in opportunity shops, just begging to be taken home.  The one at the top is the new addition, and you can hardly see the bridge but it is there.  

The most surprising thing this weekend was that I found another little glass presumably created for the visit of the Queen in 1953.  It was with two others, but they had lost most of their crown ornamentation so will be used in the garden sculptures, but this one I will have to keep.  So pretty, and such a small capacity.  It  was presumably for sherry but a person would only have a minute measure if they were using one of these glasses.  More dainty and ladylike appetites in those times one can only assume!  

This is the time of year when the garden balls, sculptures and other ornaments come into their own, because there is precious little else to look at apart from the dreaded bag moth cases, which are staging a comeback with a vengeance.  Mr Shoestring spends a lot of time filling his plastic bag with the fiendish things in order to destroy them.  I used to help him, but I find that over time I have developed a horror of them and they make me shudder.  That's my excuse anyway, or it may just be that I prefer to be inside and warm, ruffling up my fabrics and dreaming of new projects both stitching and gardening!  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Living on Lentils

I've been on a bit of an economy drive this week, waiting for payday which seemed as though it might never arrive.  From time to time when in this frugal frame of mind I'm gripped by the desire to go through all the obscure items in the pantry and use them up before they're past their "best by" date and this time it was poor old lentils which came under my scrutiny.  Sometimes this urge to use up all the odds and ends can result in some strange and extraordinary combinations but this week it's been a pretty happy outcome, apart from being rather lentil heavy.  About two months ago I had the most delicious Israeli couscous salad, courtesy of Lady Raglan's sister, and begged the recipe from her. For a couple of weeks I pretty much lived on this salad (the recipe for which I will post because I feel sure I'm not alone in finding it delicious) but this week it was lentil salad which was the store cupboard staple, and then of course good old lentil dahl.

The most exciting thing to happen during the working week was that I solved a mystery which had been bothering me from time to time.  On my walk to work in the mornings I could sometimes detect the most foul stink and I used to wonder whether a bird or some other small creature had died nearby and was moldering away undetected.  One morning I noticed a most strange looking red star shaped flower and thought it must have fallen from a nearby tree, but on closer inspection it was actually growing up from the mulch around it.  I remembered an app I had heard reviewed on dear old National Radio (or whatever it calls itself these days), iNaturalist, which I had installed on my phone.  I sent a photo of the weird red object off to iNaturalist and was thrilled to have my mystery object identified.

It turned out to be an anemone stinkhorn fungus (Aseroe rubra), and surprise surprise, "recognisable for its foul odour of carrion and its sea anemone shape when mature".  The description also mentioned that it is covered in brownish slime, and attracts flies which spread its spores.  I was so pleased to have my mystery finally solved and looking more closely at my photo I can see the brown slime. (repulsive but strangely fascinating all the same.)  I'll make sure I use that clever little app at every possible opportunity in future and I think it's a brilliant help for anybody who walks in our bush or even through urban environments.

It was great to be back at Shoestring Cottage this weekend after a weekend away and I had all my treasures from last week to put in place.  The bridge picture which Mr Shoestring found so attractive went happily in place with the two others, so now it's officially a collection.

Just excuse the fact that the photo is skew whiff and imagine them all sitting horizontal and you'll get the general idea. 

And the art deco lady (she would have to be very early art deco, admittedly, possibly a bit early to be called art deco really) looks very happy with her land girl sister from a later generation and I'm thinking I might have to make a collection of lovely ladies for in my sewing room.  Mr Shoestring was very fond of her also and didn't agree completely with my decision to put her in my sewing room but he can't complain too much because there is very little space on the walls now for pictures.  

The royal visit glass has gone to live with a "Royalty" magazine and I feel they will be very happy together.  

The bird's nest fern which started off as a tiny baby has taken off so well indoors that it is almost too big for its place over the bath now and as it's still sending forth more new fronds I'm a bit uncertain as to what to do with it.  I fear I have created a monster, and it might need its own room to inhabit at this rate.  I daren't put it out in the garden because one frost would kill it off completely, which would be a shame after such strong growth this past few years, and the fact that at one stage after a period of neglect it was near death and made a miraculous recovery with a bit of time and the right environment.

In the garden everything is flourishing still.  Apparently there was torrential rain, thunderstorms and high winds at the cottage during the week and I was a bit apprehensive, thinking that all the glass and crystal sculptures might be smashed to a thousand smithereens around the place but they looked completely unperturbed and happily all in place still, so that was a relief.

 The succulents which were putting forth buds last time we were at the cottage must have survived the storm because they are all happily blossoming now 
 And each week I think we must surely have seen the latest rose of the season but yet another one was to be seen this weekend.
I feared that the air plants may have succumbed to the wind and cold but they too were looking happy
Inside I carried on with embellishing an old boiled wool jacket, and though it has a lot of bouquets strewn about its surface now I can't seem to stop,

and dragged out my button collection (thank you Mrs Peaceable for topping it up for me recently) and old pieces of floral linen, wondering if I could squeeze a few more bits and pieces onto the background wool.

The other thing which kept me happily occupied was my dye pot.  Having had such fun dying bits of wool from old blankets to use in an applique quilt I've moved onto dying my clothes.  It is great fun, the only down side is that I can see at this rate I will have whole swathes of clothes in single colours. This weekend I was going to dye a skirt a lovely shade of Madonna blue instead of its more prosaic natural beige shade but in a fit of enthusiasm I tossed in a whole lot of other things including some sets of undies, and in future it might be better to show some restraint and just stick to the original plan.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Myth Which Was Founded In Fact

This weekend Mr Shoestring and I had to stay in town instead of making our escape to Shoestring Cottage.  I had heard vague murmurings from many people about an Eldorado of a thrift shop, but it was the kind of thing which seemed to be too good to be true and I had discounted its existence.  I figured there abound these kind of whisperings about treasure troves full of fabulous goods at wonderfully tiny prices.  But since we were prisoners in the city we decided to set out on an exploratory mission to see whether there really was such a place , fortified first in true Jaffa fashion by large lattes.  It turns out that there is indeed a bargain hunter's paradise in Auckland!  Habitat for Humanity in East Tamaki is just about the best op shop I have ever visited.  Not only is there a dedicated (large) area for vintage goods, they are reasonably priced and beautifully displayed.  Cabinets full of twinkling glassware arranged in colour families, tidily sorted fabrics and cushions, gorgeous furniture from all periods attractively set out like room displays, this place is a Mecca for the treasure seeker.  I saw a beautiful oil painting to add to my collection but Mr Shoestring didn't like it and vetoed my choice, instead insisting on his own selection.

He did allow me this gorgeous art deco lady though as a kind of consolation I suspect,

 and also the marquetry sailing boat which I thought charming.  It reminds me of a 1920s children's book illustration and I think its simple outlines are very appealing.

  But perhaps the best buy in money terms was this wonderful little glass (50 cents) which I fear will set me off on another collecting jag.

 I already have an old magazine about the Queen's visit to New Zealand in 1953 and part of the appeal of the Putaruru Hotel was that it was specially decorated for Her Majesty in the hope that she would spend a night there.  But now I have my very own commemorative glass to recognise the occasion and I feel sure that there must be other similar items languishing in dark and dusty corners all around the country, just awaiting my loving attention.  And if it takes me a long time to track any of them down so much the better really, because to be honest we're not sure of a glass or two, but what fun in the search.

I don't know why but Mr Shoestring has always had a great fondness for coats and jackets and yesterday he excitedly showed me this amazing black wool coat with a fur trim.  (I'm not sure what this fur is, perhaps it is lamb's wool?)

  I resisted buying it because it is so warm and I can't actually imagine any occasion when I might wear it without turning myself into a red faced, sticky, hot and bothered grumpy old lady.  However he insisted it was too good to pass up so we duly bought it and dragged it home to our lair.  I was in need of a restorative cup of tea by this time, let me tell you (as Winston Peters would say), it is extremely heavy.

 But beautifully made and it turns out it is the work of one Aubrey Segal and his work has been mightily praised in English Country Living magazine in the 1970s as being worthy of wear by Princess Anne.  (A bit of a royal theme emerging this week it seems.)  The other two coat makers were Aquascutum and Hardy Amies, so Segal is in good company.  They mentioned that it is reminiscent of the style of the late 1940s and I thought the same, especially because of the buttons and the beautiful triangular trimmings.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Putting the Garden to Bed

Officially the season is over and it's time to put the garden to bed, but it has been hard to believe this as things continue to grow and blossom.  I lingered at the hardware store and couldn't resist putting in a few more seedlings which may well be blasted by a frost when the weather finally becomes wintry. I found a bird's nest in the garden while I was doing battle with the ever resilient oxalis and was interested to see that the birds harbour no prejudice towards synthetic materials when creating their nests.  The maker of this nest had diligently woven a very long strip of plastic through the base of the nest, no doubt pleased to have found such an excellent building material. It must have been rather cumbersome to carry back to the building site because of its length though.

The oak leaf hydrangea which I planted recently has coloured up beautifully and is looking suitably autumnal and I think for long lasting interest in the garden it is a star, because not only are there the pyramidal pannicles of blossom, afterwards there are the bronze coloured leaves to enjoy right until the end of autumn.  It is probably time to cut it back now but I can't do that yet, because I want to enjoy the look of the leaves for a while longer.  

The vine which colours up so beautifully has scrambled up into the plum tree and is putting on a good show, though this week its leaves are starting to lose their scarlet and fade to pink and drop onto the grass beneath.  

Still the pansies are blooming though, and if they are dead headed regularly they reward us with a lot longer flowering season.  Though these pansies I embroidered on one of my crazy quilts seemed fantastical at the time I worked them, they are nothing compared to the actual colours I am seeing on the pansies in the garden at present. It would be good to achieve the veining and shades of colour seen in the real blossoms one day.

Walking around the neighbourhood this weekend it was odd to see that the narcissus are already blooming in some places.  I think the warm weather may have tricked them into early blooming as though spring was already here.  Then on coming home I realised that the succulents in hanging baskets are putting on buds too, which surely isn't right.  Hopefully they will manage to put forth a few flowers before the cold weather arrives, and not waste their efforts.  

This weekend Mr and Mrs Peaceable hosted us at a delicious dinner to celebrate the beginning of duck shooting season.  The intrepid hunters had only managed one duck in their first day's hunting and I suspect most of the enjoyment comes from spending time in the maimai and indulging in all the rites which have become associated with the occasion.  (For instance, playing poker and using ammunition as "chips" and trying to win your opponents' ammunition off them, and use it for yourself.  Mr Peaceable had very cleverly resorted to the trick of using a "lady's" weapon, reasoning that nobody else would have one and therefore wouldn't want to win his ammunition from him, which was very ingenious of him.)

Some more happy hours were spent this weekend gluing bits and pieces together for another crystal sculpture for the garden, but as yet there is no suitable base so it will have to lie around cluttering up the place for another week, until we have the right thing to anchor it in place.  I can see that the sculptures will eventually need a little washing and it could be that outdoor housework will be the order of the day in springtime but I realised last weekend that it was becoming a bit labour intensive, working in the garden, when I resorted to hosing down a plant to rid it of all the bird droppings which had accumulated on the leaves.  That really is taking things too far, note to self, let the garden look after itself more.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Tyranny of Well Meaning Friends and Relations

The golden weather has continued this weekend; despite predictions by the forecasters in advance that Sunday was going to be cloudy and cooler it has been beautiful on both days and people have been out and about making the most of the warmth.  We took the chance to visit the Thames Saturday market and I was overjoyed to find a lot more crystal and glass pieces for the garden sculptures.  (The lady who served me was curious as to what I was doing with my booty and when I told her she planted a new seed in my mind - using light fittings on poles to make impressive tall sculptures.  Must resist for now though.)  Mr Shoestring was very patient and let me ferry my treasure back and forth to the waiting car without becoming annoyed, because he too was scratching about looking for bargains. I was pleased to find this old tray (set me back one dollar so acceptable purchase) which I hoped would be large enough to sit comfortably across the freshly rejuvenated claw foot bath, and sure enough when I got it home it was a perfect fit.  I said to Mr Shoestring that it would be perfect for putting houseplants on, because that room has become like a hothouse and is almost overflowing with indoor plants which are thriving in the sunshine and warmth.  We almost need to take in a machete to hack our way to the shower.  Mr Shoestring thought it would be more useful to put glasses of wine on while bathing but I'm sure we will be able to reach a compromise mutually pleasing.

At the last minute, just as we were leaving town, I remembered one extra opportunity shop and dashed in for a quick reconnoitre.  I was pleased that I did, because lo and behold, awaiting me and only me, were four fabulous needlework canvases all complete and begging to be put to use.  It's always been an ambition of mine to cover a chair or possibly (getting very ambitious now) a chaise longue with old needlework canvases and for $3 and $4 each these beauties were mine.  I was almost hyperventilating with excitement and also, it has to be admitted, slightly anxious lest another collector arrive and snap them up before I had secured them for myself.

Here they all are.  They were all completed to the very last stitch by somebody and then not used for anything in particular, so it will be a great pleasure to use them for something rather than letting them go to waste.  They are rather stretched out of shape (not as much as they would have been had I worked them though), so they will need to be blocked before they can be put together to upholster anything, but that's fine because as yet I don't have the perfect thing to use them on.  The fourth one, which is sideways, you will just have to turn your head to make out.  It is a scene of the Coromandel, so appropriate since it came from Thames, the gateway to the Coromandel peninsula.  (I didn't have my camera with me so had to use my phone, and I can't for the life of me fathom out how to rotate the pictures and make them stay rotated, they seem to have a mind of their own and will not do as I desire, the pesky things.)  

After the markets my dear mama, sister, mama's dear old friend and my niece came to visit and we had a lovely lunch outside in the sunshine.  Somehow when you feel it could be the last occasion for enjoying the warm weather before the winter comes it makes it all the more pleasant.  I was showing off my new glass and crystal sculptures because my dear mama, though she gave me the idea, has not completed any yet.  (I suspect she may just carry on collecting her raw materials and not ever commence work, but she assures me she is just waiting until the cool weather sets in and she is at a loose end for projects to keep her occupied.)  Imagine my disappointment when rather than admiring fulsomely my efforts my visitors came up with all kinds of suggestions (all of them impractical I hasten to add) as to how things could be improved.  Not content with the sculptures glistening and twinkling in the sun they thought an element of water would be a great improvement.  (They are not the first ones to come up with this difficult proposition.)  Then they thought spotlights or other illuminations would be pretty and should be added.  Worst of all, they weren't overwhelmed by my trees with painted trunks, adorned with butterflies, strings of beads, pretty plates and other ornaments - oh no, they thought some snakes wrapped around the boughs would be very effective.  At this point I gave up resisting their suggestions and feebly went along with the idea of snakes, and promised to try to create some.  Not knitted or crocheted though, they would deteriorate in the weather, they need to be sparkly and metallic for the best effective.  Sometimes we just can't win, no matter how we try.

After they left I sat down with my stitching, wracking my brain for the best way to create a stunning group of snakes in the garden.  (I looked up the name for a group of snakes and it can be a den, nest, pit, bed or knot of snakes, all of which sound rather suitable for the snakes which I am determined will inhabit my garden.)  In the meantime though, raw materials not being yet to hand, I contented myself with starting to embellish yet another wool jacket for the winter weather, this time with appliques of left over patchwork fabric.  Maybe a few snakes could wend their way around the hem too.
I had some pretty photos of what else was happening in the house and garden this weekend, but they are all either sideways or upside down so this single lonely well behaved one will have to do.  Happy stitching, gardening, cooking or whatever it is which is occupying your leisure hours this weekend friends.