Saturday, December 23, 2017


This is my granddaughter's much loved bear showing off his new summer clothes made by me. I say they are for him but, really, they are for her. There's been much secrecy to get everything made in time for christmas as she doesn't like to be without his company for long and I needed him for fittings. He is such an odd shape but by sewing for him I've learnt quite a bit - mainly by trial and error - about pattern drafting like working out how to make sandals for a bear that doesn't really have feet!

Reading: Anything is possible by Elizabeth Strout. This is a short story collection in the style of Olive Kitteridge but the stories revolve around the character Lucy Barton (from My name is Lucy Barton). A beautifully written and compelling book. ***** 

Watching: Mindhunter on Netflix. Based on the true crime book of the same name. Two FBI agents interview serial killers to help them develop a method for criminal profiling. ****

Happy holidays to you. I wish you safe travels and good times. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

home and away

We've just had a wonderful week staying in Russell in the Bay of Islands. Russell is a lovely town and there's plenty to do up there.

I'd recommend
  • a visit to Waitangi and the new museum
  • a boat trip to Urupukapuka Island - the pohutukawa and flax were in bloom and full of bees and tui plus you often get to see dolphins in the harbour
  • doing the full circle walk from Russell to Opua to Paihia. It's a bit of a stretch - 14km - but you can stop half way at Opua for lunch at the marina.
  • Pompallier House - they now have a small cafĂ©. You can sit on the verandah drinking coffee and eating croissant while looking out on the garden and harbour.
  • swimming at Long Beach

And back home, the cornflowers are in full bloom and bringing lots of bees into the garden. And the christmas cake is fresh from the oven. It's a "blonde" fruit cake that can be made close to christmas. The recipe is Eliza's fruit cake by Annabel Langbein. It contains prunes which give it a wonderful, moist texture. Last year I spent ages decorating the cake with concentric circles of blanched almonds but this year I got lazy and simply scattered sliced almonds over the top. Have you made your cake yet?

Tin man by Sarah Winman. This is a novel about what might have been, memories, sexual identity and love - of childhood friends Ellis and Michael and, later, of Ellis and Annie. It's a well written book but it lost me about two-thirds through. ***

Bertie's guide to life and mothers by Alexander McCall Smith (44 Scotland Street series) I found this in one of the local book exchange cupboards when I was looking for something light and quick for a holiday read. Which is exactly what I got. I like McCall Smith's #1 ladies' detective agency series but Bertie's guide was just too twee for me. **

Listening: Tiny desk concert by Cat Stevens

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


A new apron for Gus - just like this one - made from her kindergarten fundraiser tea towel. It's very cute with each child's self-portrait printed on it.

And cranberry shortbread cookies. The recipe is available in Donna Hay's The christmas issue Dec/Jan 2018. Really good. I made them to take to a thanksgiving dinner at the across-the-road neighbours. A nice christmas gift too for family, friends, or neighbours.

Watching: Alias Grace on Netflix. This is based on Margaret Atwood's book of the same name. It's a fictionalised telling of the murders in 1843 of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Canada. Grace Marks was a servant in the Kinnear household and was only sixteen when she and James McDermott were accused of the murders. ****

Have a lovely week.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


It's been three weeks since I posted but I'm sorry to say I don't have anything tremendous to share - I haven't been anywhere or done anything exciting. I just took an unplanned break from blogging and making things.

So... what's been happening?

Well, the cosmos is looking great. I planted some a couple of years ago and it brought some chaffinches to the garden. They seem to like eating the seeds from the flower heads. So I planted more cosmos this year but, sadly, no chaffinches yet.

I've "sandwiched" quilt #4 and started quilting it by hand - which takes me forever but its very enjoyable.

Everything is ready to begin sewing another dress for my granddaughter.

And I've started some new knitting. Free pattern here.

Other news is that we have a large orb spider living in the garden. It comes out of hiding at night to eat and to mend its web. Unfortunately a few bees have been caught in the web and I'm torn between trying to save them and wanting the spider to live in my garden. The web is huge and beautiful.

Also I've decided to rank books/films out of five - a brief summary doesn't really tell you much. What we really want to know is was it any good. Well, it'll just be my opinion but here we go ...

Aspergers are us - documentary about four friends on the autism spectrum who form a comedy troupe. ***

My beautiful broken brain - Netflix documentary about Lotje Sodderland who has a stroke at the age of 34 which leaves her unable to write and limits her ability to communicate effectively. Rather than let this hold her back Lotje remains positive and grateful for her new life. ** (Even though the story is uplifting and Lotje is amazing, there's just not enough to sustain a full length film, IMO)

Reading: Theft by finding by David Sedaris - his edited diary entries from 1977 to 2002. Entertaining and sometimes very funny.****

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

bears and mountains

Three things:
1. Sewing: At last I've done it - made something from a Japanese sewing book. It's dress "T" from Girls style book by Yoshiko Tsukiori. A summer dress in a cotton print for my granddaughter. It's a simple pattern. The only fussy bit was the bias binding around the armholes and neck that I stitched by hand. 

2. Yoga: I've been practicing yoga at home for a year now averaging one class a week. I'm not consistent. I have bursts of regular practice and then weeks with none but I benefit from my practice and always feel great afterwards. I keep a yoga diary - a small notebook where I jot down my thoughts about the poses or my mood or quotes from the teacher (Melissa West) that I find inspiring or helpful. I'd recommend the diary even if, like me, you're not really a diary kind of person.

3. Dancing: of the extraordinary variety by the tiny (5mm) peacock spider and the science behind it, if you're interested.

No ordinary Sheila - inspiring film about the life of New Zealand natural historian, writer and illustrator Sheila Natusch. The pages above are from her book Wild fare for wilderness foragers (1979). She was a true adventurer and free spirit. There is a lovely interview with her on Radio New Zealand.

Maudie starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke about popular Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Brought me to tears.

Reading: Autumn by Ali Smith. Short listed for this year's Man Booker Prize. It's about Elisabeth, a 32-year-old lecturer in art history and Daniel Gluck, 101-years-old and dying in an assisted care facility. He was her neighbour and confidant when she was a child. He introduced her to “arty art” and taught her to always be reading a book. The story travels between the past and present and is, apparently, an exploration of how we experience time. I found much of this book really clever and amusing but other bits mystifying.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Another bundle of baby things ready to deliver to Little Sprouts. I think I've already posted about most of the makes but what's new is the grey striped merino baby wrap like this one and the pink singlet. The singlet is knitted in the round - I used a baby merino yarn - and has a button opening on one shoulder. It's a free pattern from Drops Design available here and on Ravelry.

Other things


I'm pretty keen on Japanese sewing books and own quite a few even though I have never made a single thing from any of them. I recently discovered Easy cute straight sewing by Yoshiko Tsukiori. It has 27 designs for dresses, jackets, pants, tops etc but comes without printed patterns as the construction of all the garments is based on straight lines (mainly rectangles) so you simply follow the dimensions and draft your own. Unfortunately it seems to be available only in Japanese. The diagrams are sufficiently detailed so that you could probably work from them without the text. However I have found a useful free, printable PDF list of common sewing terms translated from Japanese into English here on the Japanese Sewing Books website - which also has a cute Instagram feed @japanesesewingbooks and reviews (with flip-through videos) of many, many Japanese sewing books. I'm not sure if I have the confidence but I'd like to think I could wear some of the very oversized and loose fitting garments from this book.

Monday, October 9, 2017


We have two ornamental cherry trees in the front garden that look amazing - and attract dozens of bees - for the short time that they are in full bloom. Which is now. So we celebrated hanami in the rain yesterday with a small family gathering. Hanami (flower viewing) is a Japanese custom to enjoy the transient beauty of flowers and is usually celebrated with a picnic beneath blossoming cherry trees. Unfortunately we had to have our "picnic" indoors.

And the top for quilt #4 is done. It's a variation on this one. I'm going to focus on sewing for a bit. I've had sore hands that seem to improve if I don't do much for a while. Probably an RSI thing but so frustrating. It seems that crochet in particular and knitting are bad for me.

Some good news is that a local supermarket chain is going to stop supplying plastic carry bags by the end of 2018. I hope this will just be the start and that other supermarkets will follow and that eventually all plastic bags will be banned.

Reading: My father's wake by Kevin Toolis. This is part biography and part thinking about death and dying. The author, who is Irish, believes the wake embraces death as a normal part of living. Whereas the Anglo-Saxon world lives in denial of it. Not as gloomy as it might sound.