Tuesday, December 20, 2016

two oh one six

2016 has been a busy year for me - calm but busy. Quite nice, really.
As well as making a few things here and there, I walked the Milford track in the rain, got rescued by helicopter, went to a belly dancing concert, began a houseplant collection, started practicing yoga at home, made a lot of sandcastles, built many things from Lego, overloaded my library card with picture books, started voluntary work, swam in hot pools in Iceland, ate skyr, met pandas, got on my bike.

o   o   o   o   o   O   o   o   o   o  o

2016 favourites: 

+ People places things
+ Infinitely polar bear
+ Life animated
+ Mistress America
+ Captain Fantastic

+ In order to live : a North Koreans girl's journey to freedom by Yeonmi Park
+ Mansfield and me by Sarah Laing
+ M train by Patti Smith
+ The party line by Sue Orr
+ A long way from Verona by Jane Gardam 
+ A manual for cleaning women by Lucia Berlin

+ Matthew E. White
+ Waxahatchee
+ Kurt Vile 
+ Ray Lamontagne

Thank you for your support this year and may the year ahead be a good one for you.
I'll be taking a little blog break. See you again in January 2017.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Some photos from last weeks holiday at Waihi Beach. It's rejuvenating to get out of the city occasionally. We had such a nice time - hubby and me - that we're thinking of making the pre-Christmas holiday a regular thing.

If you're visiting Waihi over the summer, I'd recommend
  • the walk over the hill to Orokawa Bay
  • Flat White Cafe - good food, good coffee and right on the beach
  • a visit to Bowentown for views of Matakana Island and a picnic at Cave Bay
  • a soak in the hot pools at Athenree especially if it's raining
  • a cycle on (all or part of) the Hauraki rail trail
  • lunch at The Bistro at Falls Retreat, Karangahake

Reading: Mansfield and me by Sarah Laing - a graphic memoir described as "a very New Zealand coming-of-age story". The author parallels events in her life with those of Katherine Mansfield.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

odd bits garland

My three-year-old granddaughter is into "threading" at the moment and last week we made this garland. It was a fun thing to do together and it didn't take a lot of preparation - or cleaning up.

To make a garland you will need:

Essentials : scissors, string or fishing line (or other strong thread that doesn't require a needle to thread), drinking straws

Extras :
hole punch
paper (old magazines, newspaper, crepe paper, wrapping paper), card or cardboard
aluminium foil
buttons, beads (with holes big enough for your string to pass through)
fabric or felt scraps
lace, ribbon
anything else you can think of

1. Cut paper, foil, cellophane, fabric into shapes - strips, rectangles, triangles, circles, anything you like.
2. Cut or punch holes smaller than the diameter of the straws in your shapes. If you make bigger holes your shapes will slide over the straws. Holes don't have to be in the centre. You can even punch two holes in larger pieces and thread string through both holes so they hang vertically.
3. Cut some drinking straws into different lengths - some long, some short.
4. Cut a long piece of string - the finished length of your garland plus more to make a loop for hanging.
5. Tie something  - a button, bead, piece of cardboard - at the end of your string to stop everything sliding off.
6. Start threading using plenty of drinking straws. The straws help to space out the other pieces.
7. When you're done tie a loop at the top. Hang your garland - in a window is nice.

Listening: Until the hunter by Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions. I especially love Let me get there with Kurt Vile.

Reading: I'm just a person : my year of death, cancer, and epiphany by Tig Notaro (American comedian). Funny (in parts) and insightful. I don't know how I ended up with this after reading All at sea - two "misery" biographies one after the other. It's just how it worked out with the library. You request books and they come whenever.

Monday, November 28, 2016

all the good

Some recently re-potted cactuses - some are new plants and some are newly painted pots.

And some purchases from the Grey Lynn Park Festival on Saturday
  • slippers for me for next winter. They are fair trade, handmade in Mongolia from local wool. They are my favourite slippers - warm and hard-wearing. I try to get a pair each year from the festival. This time I didn't have enough cash so the seller gave me her bank account number and said I could do the transfer when I got home. How amazing that she trusted me. I felt so overwhelmed by her kindness and generosity.
  • a new cookbook for my collection, Everyday easy eats, produced by Balmoral School in Auckland. Also available here should you want a copy.
  • a little blue dog made by blind artist Juliet Jackson - a friend for the elephant I bought from her last year. 

Saturday night we went to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by our American neighbours. During the evening guests were asked to share something that they had felt grateful for during the year. The responses were heartfelt and I felt blessed to have these friends and to be living in such a peaceful country.

I'm not usually so mushy but it was quite a weekend and it reminded me of this quote by John Wesley

Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

poppies and totes

Reusable, washable supermarket bags made from cotton duck and lined for strength. I made four, two of each fabric. I'm especially fond of the fruit print. I made them small so that when they are full I can still lift and carry them easily.

I was going to write a tutorial on how to make them but there are already so many tutorials out there. Here are some of my favourites for similar bags:
with interfacing and an easy way to sew gusseted corners 
with French seams and a pocket
a simple unlined bag

And while I was at the market, I couldn't resist buying a bunch of poppies. I love their weird hairy stalks and tissue paper petals.

Reading: All at sea - biography by British journalist Decca Aitkenhead about life before and after her husband died while saving their son from drowning

Monday, November 14, 2016

lunch lady yoga

Lunch lady is an Australian quarterly made by the creators of frankie magazine and it's my favourite magazine right now. It has a parenting/family focus with a lot of fun creative ideas, recipes and great photography. That weighty looking loaf is the Feel-good banana + quinoa bread from issue #4 and it is truly delicious. It makes quite a big loaf but you can slice it up and freeze it. It toasts up really well.

And I have finally started practising yoga at home thanks to Canadian teacher Melissa West. She has free one-hour videos on youtube with beginners and intermediate classes. I started with her beginners' class 101 and I'm now working my way through the beginners series. I think it's important to find a teacher you like and Melissa is just right for me. And I feel great. I think I put off doing yoga at home because I wanted to set up a designated yoga space but, sometimes, you can't wait for things to be perfect. You just have to start.

Listening: Leon Russell and the Shelter People by Leon Russell and the Shelter People - my own tribute to Leon Russell who died on Sunday, November 13.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


A few purchases - cotton fabrics, buttons and unbleached cotton yarn - from last weekend's Fabric-a-brac. It's become an annual event here in Auckland. Anyone can buy a table to sell fabrics and other sewing items with the proceeds going to Mercy Hospice. I usually go a bit mad at Fabric-a-brac so this year I tried to shop with intent - buying only items for future planned projects.

Also (but not from Fabric-a-brac) the winter edition of Extra Curricular. I like to treat myself to this local craft magazine. I like that its small and printed on nice paper with rounded corners.

And, finally, from the Cactus and Succulent Society biennial show yesterday a succulent I've been after for a while - crassula lycopodioides (aka watch chain plant) - and a lovely hand thrown planter (potter unknown).

I've been in a little crafting rut lately and I blame it on the crochet blanket I started here. Everything was going well until it came to joining the granny squares. I decided to hand sew them together and the task expanded in my head and became a major piece of work that I procrastinated over. I didn't want to start anything new until the blanket was done. So, to move on, I've set myself a daily schedule of sewing and that seems to be working. I now have the greatest respect for crocheted blankets - the ones you find in thrift stores that have a price tag of $15. All that work and time and yarn. I have since learnt that you can weave in the yarn ends as you go and join squares as you go and that there are many ways to crochet the squares together. Maybe next time ...

Reading: 101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason (1996) described by The Guardian as "laugh out loud funny". The protagonist is an unemployed thirty-something loser who not only lives with his mother but falls in love with her lesbian lover. I'm sticking with this book (even though its not the sort of book I like) because it's set in Iceland and it's not bad.
Listening: Aftertouch by Princess Chelsea.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


I made these cross stitch his/her name tags back in 2012 when we first bought these red lockers for our bathroom and when I liked the idea of ironic cross stitch. And, actually, I still like these tags. 
Four years later I've gotten around to sharing  - chart and instructions here.
Reading: Plastic free: how I kicked the plastic habit and how you can too by Beth Terry.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


I confess I am a great maker of lists - lists of words, of places, of things for the garden etc. And that is why I love the notebook - it keeps all my lists in one place. I have been collecting (recycling?) paper to make my own notebooks for a few years now and finally I've done it following this tutorial. You don't need to buy any special equipment to bind a notebook. I substituted some of the suggested tools/materials with what I had. I used embroidery thread instead of linen thread, a darning needle that doubled as an awl and as a bookbinding needle, and a plastic ruler instead of a bone folder. I also used old magazine covers for my book covers. I followed the tutorial as written. The notebooks are quite small; only ten leaves/twenty pages each but you can easily put in more pages. I'm feeling very smug about these notebooks. They were a quick and straight forward make and turned out well. Very satisfying. I think they would make nice gifts as a set of three especially if you illustrated or printed your own covers. But, be quick, only eleven weeks till Christmas.

Reading: I'm back to A manual for cleaning women by Lucia Berlin.
Watching: Two unexpectedly similar (kind of) films - Michael Moore's Where to invade next and Captain Fantastic

Sunday, October 2, 2016

four more

- the cherry trees are in blossom
- Little Garden - one of local supermarket chains has a promotion giving customers tiny peat pots complete with dehydrated growing medium and seeds for herbs and vegetables. It's aimed at children but we're giving it a go.
- homemade almond butter - recipe here
- lemon cake with a sugar topping

Lemon Cake
125g butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 170ºC.
Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar.
Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in the rind.
Fold in sifted flour alternately with milk to form a smooth batter.
Spread into tin and bake for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Rest in the tin for about 3-4 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack set over a tray. Spoon over lemon syrup.

1/2 cup sugar
juice of one lemon
thin strips of lemon rind (use a zester, if you have one)
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and spoon over the warm cake. Allow to set.

Nice served with thick Greek yoghurt.

Watching: Veep season 4
Reading: Spaces: where creative people live, work and play by frankie magazine (2015). It's tempting to just look at the great photos in this book - I love looking at other people's stuff - but it's so worth reading the text to hear their stories too. One of my favourites is about a couple and their two small children who live in a lighthouse keeper's cottage on Moreton Island, Queensland. "Sometimes it's so quiet you can hear the sound of whales exhaling as they surface on the sea below the house." Imagine that!

Have a good week.

Monday, September 26, 2016

hanging pots

I like succulents. They are so unfussy to grow and fun to propagate. I'm always on the lookout for cuttings and have pots of baby succulents hidden all over the garden. This project was a perfect way for me to get them potted up and looking great - and brighten up a boring side garden at the same time. Succulents are well suited to hanging pots as you don't need to water them very often and, even when they're not flowering, the foliage is interesting. For hanging pots I think the trailing ones look best - like the burro tail (photo top left). You could also try jellybean or baby's necklace. Or a small-leafed ivy if you're not a fan of the succulent.

To make some hanging pots you will need:
plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom
a one-hole punch
"S" hooks - available from hardware stores and/or gardening centres
potting mix
drainage material

Punch a hole in the centre of one side of your pot.
Add some drainage material to the bottom of the pot.
Add potting mix and pot up your plant.
Poke the hook through the hole and attach to your trellis or fence.

If you're in need of plants or inspiration the Auckland branch of the Cactus and Succulent Society of NZ are holding their biennial show and sale from 4-6 November. There is usually an amazing display of weird plants and bargains to be had. See you there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Today's post has been inspired by Pip Lincolne from meet me at mikes. She does a "One + Four = Life" post every now and then. The idea is that once a week you post four photos to document your life. I don't think this will be a regular thing for me but ...
- purchased today - a yellow striped t-shirt in anticipation of summer
- jasmine - it's in bloom all over the neighbourhood
- Spaces by frankie magazine - for some voyeuristic reading pleasure

And a new project making granny squares that will grow miraculously into a blanket. I don't crochet very often and always need to get out the book to learn all over again how to do it. There's also a very good tutorial over on meet me at mikes. I like the randomness of crochet blankets - just making it up as you go along and not really knowing how the whole will turn out.

Reading: A little life by Hanya Yanagihara
Changing: "just one thing" to help save our planet. Instructions here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I finally got to Iceland - somewhere I've wanted to go to for a very long time. We spent six days there driving around the island on the ringroad, aka Route 1. It's a bleak but beautiful place. Not many trees. But fjords, glaciers, waterfalls, emptiness.

Best things:
- soaking in the milky blue, mineral-rich, geothermal waters at the Nature Baths at Lake Myvatn
- driving 25km along a narrow unsealed road along the coast to dine at Geitafell restaurant
- Jökulsárlón where great chunks of ice break off the Breidamerkurjökull glacier, fall into the lagoon and float out to sea
- Icelandic sheep
- misty days
- skyr

Reading: My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante. I know this is a very poplar book and I tried to like it. It wasn't bad. I finished it because I wanted to know what happened. But it wasn't the right book for me.
Reading: A manual for cleaning women by Lucia Berlin. Funny, sad, insightful short stories.

Watching: Life, animated. Tender documentary about raising an autistic child.
Watching: Mistress America starring Greta Gerwig who also starred in Frances Ha. I love both these films. They're kind of similar - about finding a place in the world. Funny, idiosyncratic, ridiculous and full of over-the-top characters. Incidentally the guy who plays the small part of Harold is New Zealander, Dean Wareham.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


I'll be away from here for a short while. Back in mid September. See you then.

Friday, August 26, 2016

poetry day

Today is National Poetry Day in New Zealand and I'd like to share this poem by the wonderful Jenny Bornholdt from her Moving house collection. I often think of this poem as I pass under street lights walking home in the dark.

Instructions for how to get ahead of yourself while the light still shines

If you have a bike, get on it at night
and go to the top of the Brooklyn Hill.

When you reach the top
start smiling - this is Happy Valley Road.

Pedal at first, then let the road take you down
into the dark as black as underground
broken by circles of yellow lowered by the street lights.

As you come to each light
you will notice a figure
racing up behind.
Don't be scared
this is you creeping up on yourself.
As you pass under the light
you will sail past yourself into the night.

Monday, August 22, 2016


That's me in those photos with my kids "back in the day". Although I can't remember doing it, I must've made the green bib because a few pages on in the photo album my daughter is wearing pajamas in the same fabric. Anyway the photos are here because I've been sewing bibs again but this time for Little Sprouts using my own pattern that you can get here

The pattern is for a simple hard-wearing bib. Nothing fancy. You can use up pieces of leftover fabric and even back the bib using an old towel.

durable fabric for bib front e.g. cotton, drill, polyester
thicker fabric for the back e.g. towelling, fleece
small piece of 2cm (3/4 inch) wide Velcro (loop and hook fastening)

1. Print the pattern to 100% scale. Cut out the pattern pieces and join together.
2. From your fabrics cut one front and one back piece. Seam allowances are included in the pattern.
3. Lay one on top of the other, right sides facing.
4. Join front and back together stitching all around the edge using a 1cm (3/8 inch) seam but leaving an opening along the bottom edge (as indicated on pattern piece) for turning.
5. Trim seams and clip corners.
6. Turn right sides out and use a pointy thing like a chopstick or knitting needle gently poke out the corners.
7. Press all over pressing under the seams at the opening. Hand or machine stitch the opening closed.
8. Top stitch all round about 6mm (1/4 inch) in from the edge.
9. Cut a strip of Velcro at least 3cm (1 1/4 inch) long. Attach the soft loop piece to the front of one of the neck tabs placing a short end just inside the top stitching at the end of the tab. Stitching all round the edge. Attach the rough hook piece to the back of other neck tab positioning it in more or less the same place near the top of the tab.

More free patterns for quick and easy baby bibs:
Front fastening bib
Oilcloth bib with a pocket - easily adaptable to sew in other fabrics. Plus some tips on how to sew oilcloth.
Bandana bib
Placemat bib - this one is a bit like a t-shirt with ribbing around the neck. Easily adaptable pattern. I might try this one myself.

Reading: Lonely Planet Scandinavia

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Spring is happening in the garden with a few flowers in bloom - polyanthus, primula, freesia, daphne. I really like the primula. It's such a simple flower but cute with its little spot of yellow. And I love how the flower clusters branch off the stalk in layers. It reminds me of a wedding cake.

We have new across-the-road neighbours. My lovely next door neighbour organised an afternoon tea to welcome them and I baked and took these lemon and rosemary biscuits. It's one of my favourite recipes and you can find it here. Next door neighbour got out her best flowery china cups and we sat in the garden drinking tea and eating treats and getting to know each other.

Monday, August 8, 2016

postcard from adelaide

Holiday - without a camera. Even though I left it handy by the front door I still managed to leave it behind as we rushed out early for the airport. So these few shots are from my phone.

Best things about Adelaide:
+ late afternoon walks along the River Torrens
+ the Art Gallery of South Australia 
+ drinking champagne at the rooftop Hennessy Bar, Mayfair Hotel
+ browsing secondhand books at O'Connell's Bookshop and the Oxfam Second Hand Bookshop
+ lunch at the Seasonal Garden Cafe at Hahndorf
+ meeting the only giant pandas in the southern hemisphere, Wang Wang and Fu Ni, at the Adelaide Zoo (probably my most camera-missing moment)
+ getting lost at the Central Market
+ the JamFactory galleries and studios
+ federation architecture

I'd been wanting to visit Adelaide for ages - for no particular reason. It was cold and grey most of the time and, maybe because I was so hyped up about it, a bit disappointing. But after making the list of best things I'm beginning to see that for a small city it has a lot to offer. Perhaps a few more sunny days... Or another time of year...

I popped into The drapery while I was there. Such lovely fabrics. I was really tempted to stock up. Instead I bought a Merchant & Mills pattern - "the fielder" dress/top. Have you made it? Or any of the Merchant & Mills patterns?

Reading: True stories by Helen Garner. I enjoyed Everywhere I look so I'm now reading another collection of her non-fiction essays.

Friday, July 29, 2016


My recent making of baby things has been for Little Sprouts - a New Zealand charity that works with various organisations to give "vulnerable" families everything they need for their new baby.
In making a contribution I've also challenged myself to use only fabric and wool from my stash and to not buy any supplies. It has been challenging to resist buying but it's also pushed my creativity a bit. Who knew you could make a blanket from a metre of woolen fabric just by squaring it up and binding the edges. It's also gratifying to know that stuff that I have that I will probably never use or need can be put to good use by someone else. Plus I've loved the making, of course.

For any interested makers:
the blankets were inspired by this tutorial at Purl Soho
the blue merino wrap by this tutorial
the side-buttoned cardigan is a free pattern available here
and a similar pattern for the tiny "prem" beanies can be found here.

Enjoy your weekend. 

Friday, July 22, 2016


I'm so pleased to show you this little piece of knitting. It's the first thing I've knitted "top down" and the first time I've used a circular needle. It's the very popular "puerperium" cardigan designed by Kelly Brooker. The pattern is available here - free - in new-born size. The two great things about this cardigan is that it knits up quickly and it has no seams. So nothing to sew up and so comfortable for baby. The downside though is that those tiny sleeves are knitted in the round either on a set of double-pointed needles or using the "magic loop method" with a circular needle. I did the magic loop and, like much of knitting, it is magical. I followed this excellent youtube tutorial.

It's mid winter here so not much is happening in the garden. But I think moss is interesting and I love the earthy mustard and green colours of it so here are some mossy (or lichen covered) twigs photographed on a recent walk on a cold and blustery day.

Reading: Just kids by Patti Smith (biography about when she lived In New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe) and Everywhere I look by Helen Garner (a collection of essays).

Friday, July 15, 2016


Don't you love it when everything just comes together? I was thinking about how I could sort out my button collection that lives in a jumble in a shoe box. I seem to spend ages looking for the right buttons to finish a cardigan. Usually I find three of the 'perfect' button when I need five. I decided it would save me so much time if I were an organised person and I had them sorted into sets on cards or in little zipper bags. And while procrastinating over this enormous task I found an old (1985) gardening book, The A-Z of gardening in New Zealand, in a local book exchange. The book is full of lovely, slightly faded photographs that I thought I could use to make cards to sew my buttons onto. So I cut out some of my favourite photos, glued them onto card and stitched on the buttons using a strong top-stitching thread. I think cards like this would make a nice gift for a sewing or knitting friend.

I've been slowly working my way through my button collection. I seem to have quite a few one-offs (that's just a selection on the plate, above) and I've decided to keep the loveliest anyway as they are so ... well, lovely. So much joy in such little, everyday things.

Have a lovely weekend.

The top photo, by the way, is of Oakura beach, south of New Plymouth, taken a couple of years ago. I have it as my computer desktop so I see it almost every day. I love to see the sea.

Reading: A long way from Verona (1971) by Jane Gardam. Another of the childhood books. I'd forgotten so much of it that it was like reading it for the first time and I loved it. Another coming of age book - and Jane Gardam's first novel -  with a young (thirteen-year-old) fiesty protagonist, Jessica (aka Jessie Carr) Vye. Again set in England but this time during the second world war - rationing and air raids.