Monday, December 28, 2009

My very clever Mother

I am so lucky and blessed to have a mother who is so artistic it almost wafts off her when she walks. She scoffs at such statements, but she never ceases to amaze me at the beautiful things she makes.
This Christmas I have been so lucky to receive home made gifts. These shall be heirlooms. I'm going to show two of the gifts in this post. The first is an embroidered brooch.

It is a lovely round, silk button about 2.5 inches across. The silk is orange shot with purple and Mum has picked those colours out of it. This is going to look fabulous with a hand dyed scarf that her late best friend dyed for a wedding present to me. A fitting tribute to another amazing artist.

My other gift is a hand embroidered needle holder, shown here front and back.

Not only is it exquisite in its detail, it is full of family jokes and personal touches. The rose climbing up the right is Leonidas, which is my favourite rose and was in my wedding bouquet. I LOVE irises, famous for it. The bees are a family joke, as are the pansies (don't ask, noone would ever think the jokes funny but us!). I also love that spring and summer flowers are all in together in a way that could never happen in reality.
And to think that after making this, she decided that she should learn a bit more about embroidery techniques!I am so lucky to have such a loving, clever and patient mother, who has always been willing to show her stubborn daughter how to do things too. Thanks Mum xoxo

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas Day. I love the preparation, the gift making and choosing, the planning and the creative outlet of it all. I love the religious significance of it.
This year, I also enjoyed enormously setting a table for 14-16 people. The magnificent cloth is a 6m length of craft cotton bought on sale from Snotfight. Yes, OK, sometimes they come through for us. My mother doctored the crackers, adding big bows and chocolates to the outside and much better presents to the inside. The miniature water pistols were particular favourites. Gorgeous serviettes from Whare in Christchurch, my table decorations as previously blogged, and the mandatory glasses of chocolates finished it all off.We had a sumptuous feast of traditional foods. I received some hand made gifts that will merit their very own posting, but not tonight. I hope that wherever you were and whatever you ate and whatever kind of table setting you had, you had a wonderful day. M xxo

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pre-Christmas dinner

Terry presiding over our Pre Christmas table.
On the 23rd December, MrC and I were joined by our dear friends Ross and Terry for Christmas Dinner. This because they are escaping to Oz on the big Day, so we exchanged presents, ate ham and had a lovely time. I forgot crackers, though. But I was happy with the table - a length of Christmas craft cotton topping the table cloth made for a festive feel.

It was a cutey little ham, perfect for a small number. I glazed it with wholeseed mustard mixed with orange marmalade, yum. A simple meal, it is summer here after all and the full excesses of traditional Christmas food are too much for me! The platter on which the ham is sitting was made by my mother in her pottery days. For dessert we had trad pudding with lemon brandy sauce. Noone got a photo of it, but it tasted great. Ross and Terry loved their shirts, I hope to have photos to upload. Perhaps I'll do a whole post one day on the shirts I have made them through the years...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Pavlova Obsession

No I don't have a thing for Russian ballerinas, I have a thing for that Antipodean specialty, the Pavlova. It is so underrated, this dessert of the Gods. Its sheer simplicity makes it a base for so many exciting variations. It makes me want to weep seeing a perfectly bland pav sitting there with kiwi fruit slices or even, heaven forbid, strawberries on it! ERK!!!
I have a few secret taste combos that I am stingily not sharing, because a gal has to have some secrets. But I did want to show this pavlova that I made for our department's Christmas function. This function takes place at my boss Pen's divine 1920's home, and as Pen is a Culinary Goddess of the highest divinity, only a chosen few are allowed to bring food across her threshold. I am one of the blessed, and this is due to my pavs.
This is the photo I took just before we left
Isn't she pretty! A topping of raspberry coulis, a ring of cream and topped off with some of my signature butterflies. I laid her ever so carefully in the back of the car, which is completely flat, and David drove off ever so carefully. In spite of this, somewhere along the way, the raspberry slid sideways, taking the cream with it, and the whole thing looked like a train wreck. I was gutted. However my ever positive co-workers jollied me along and we carefully slid most of it back into place. The way in which it was demolished with many groans of pure ecstasy I think really showed that appearances are not always everything.

Never one to miss a learning experience however, my Christmas Day pav will be garnished at the venue!

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

...And nothing much is stirring around here but me! Tomorrow is the Big Day, we have a 6 metre table to decorate, so I thought I'd get it done tonight, to free up tomorrow for food preparation.
The other night I wired up loops of ribbons,
stuck little apples onto wires, and I found wonderful gold rococo tree decorations that I stuck to wooden skewers. These are an important design element as the table cloth has a lot of that in it.
Then it was outside to raid our one and only fir type tree, and start building a base. Note pavlova cooling gently in the background. Pavs are always better cooked the day before.

This is the middle piece being built in a rectangular dish so it can hold three candles.
After a lot of sticking in of objets, voila!
Almost complete. all that is needed is a few burgundy glass baubles poked in, and as they are still on the tree I'll do that tomorrow. It's for colour balance - the cloth is black with poinsettia in it, and has a lot of darker reds. These decos have a more tomatoey red thing going on and the burgundy will help balance the colour.And here they all are, two smaller, rounder ones with one candle, and the main, larger one with three.
This is what I love about Christmas, and I can't wait to take a photo of the table all set up tomorrow afternoon.

A tattoo is for life

Greetings all. I know it's Christmas Eve and the are plenty of more topical things to talk about but I just want to share this. While out helping AlohaAroha at Expressions Bridal exhibition, I met a woman who had this tattoo on her upper arm:

She very kindly let me take a photo and said I could blog about it, but I didn't get her name.
Isn't it cool!!! The bits you can't see are a ball of knitting wool, and just disappearing around the right side is a dressmaker's dummy. This is the first tattoo I've ever seen that makes me really want one like it. I am a wooss from waaaay back, but a discreet needle and thread tucked away somewhere hideable...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A beauty tip

Christmas preparations are well under way, and I am having a trial run tomorrow night for two good friends.
In our family we serve a lemon brandy sauce with the Christmas pudding, and so I've been zesting and squeezing lemons. The fragrant tang is still on my hands, and my skin is soooo soft. I know lemons have oil in them but I didn't appreciate just how lovely lemons can be. I feel like I've had a luxurious manicure instead of being in the kitchen cookin' up a storm!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update on my baby

My baby was not fixed with a clean up after all. When I got her out to use again, the same thing started happening. I was convinced it was the pedal not the machine causing the problem, and borrowed Mum's 1030 pedal to test it. She ran like a dream with the other pedal. It does my head in that the technician didn't even bother to check the pedal!!!! So now I am stuck with one working pedal for two machines over Christmas, which is going to get interesting.
Anyway the moral of the story is, stick to your guns with these blokes.

Here she is! The image is blurred to protect her identity ;-)

Cupcake heaven

You may have picked up on how much I love to make cupcakes. Since my first posting about them, I've won a bake off, improved the butterflies and branched out into other patterns. I've collected enough cupcake wrappers to stock a cake shop for a month (baking pogeybait) and may have to photograph them all and do a post about them just to prove it (and to show them off!)
And so it was a matter of the utmost delight to receive a cupcake stand from my fabulous boss Pen this week for Christmas:

Isn't it adorable!!! It holds 18 cakes and comes apart so it is easy to transport and store.

Of course, an empty stand is just an invitation to a baker with the next day off to create:

Also I am thrilled to have found a recipe that doesn't sink in the middle, and the texture of the cake is much improved. Amazingly this recipe breaks all the rules - much the same ingredients but you put everything in together and beat the bejeezus out of it. No creaming, folding faffing around.

Featured in this selection are stand alone papers in green and pink each with white polka dots, and two types of rococo papers: black with silver and white with black.

In the background is draped the throw I made at quilting camp. To think I was going to make curtains out of it, what a waste!!! :)

Craftageddon it

A while back, Joie and I noticed that those around us at work kept wanting to buy the things we make. So, we figured why not have a craft fair at work. Raise some money for a good cause, and make a bit of Christmas money ourselves. In the end, seven staff and mothers of staff signed up, and we got some reciprocation from a related department too. We had a fair at our office, then the following week I went over and helped run one at theirs. Together we raised $360 for the Downtown Community Ministry of Wellington
Here are some of the wares:

There was heaps more too. Don't you just love Joie's fishnet and red stiletto Xmas stocking, bottom left?!

Quilting Camp

They call them retreats but I can't shake the feeling I ought to be sitting in the Lotus position and ohmming at a retreat. On 4-6 December I headed off for a weekend of intensive creating, socialising, eating and shopping. Heaven!! Excellent company, inspiring things being created all around me.
In the one weekend I assembled an entire 25 block, two border quilt top:

Not a great pic, I used my camera. I also quilted a single sized top, made a coffee plunger cosy, a bag in a bag and a sheer throw to put over a buffet.

Recognise the blocks? The finished quilt is just over 6 feet square and will end up on the end of the bed of my friends Eileen and Robert.


I'm clearly not as prolific a blogger as I thought I would be. Since my last post, we thought, hmm, that's a nice townhouse, and bought it and moved in nearly two months ago. As you do. End result is that we now have a nice big, sunny room to sew and compute in. Wasted as a master bedroom! :)
Too much has happened since then so I'll stick to the bits I remember and want to share!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I have nothing to talk about today. So I should just shut up and stop typing. But I won't. I'm like that.
It's been an interesting day, anyone else into 1-day? They are having a 20 minute sale today and it's been fun keeping up to see if there is anything worth buying. So far, a dozen bottles of appletize. I missed out on a cordless mouse for $11.99 by a whisker (hur hur). I also did heaps of work, thank you those who were wondering (you know who you are)
In a few mintes I am going to a threading party. Threading is something you can do with thread that has nothing whatsoever to do with sewing! Amazing! It's a middle-eastern hair removal technique that is very effective, and I will come away with amazing eyebrows (ouch). And black eyelashes as the amazing Sara also tints these. I love being a woman!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My baby is home again...

...umm, OK my baby is my sewing machine. I LOVE her. She is 19 and has worked so hard all of her life for me. Last year she blew her fufu valve which was quite expensive and a couple of months ago she started "missing" and the diagnosis was a worn out motor. Panic as a new one was $700+.
However after several weeks of nail biting anxiety and putting up with Mum's 1030, a contemporary of my lovely 1120 but missing several important features, I have her back and there was no charge! turns out the brushes were not worn out but clogged up, and a clean up was all it took.
That plus coming home to a cheque for $50 I won in an online competition I forgot I had entered, it was a nice homecoming indeed!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back at home base

Wow. I just spent four days in Napier - well, two full days and two travel days. Staying in the luxurious Studio Punga as a guest of the lovely Lisa and Steve Feyen, or the Pungas as they are known among friends.
The purpose of the weekend was to work on and maybe even finish a book I've been picking away at for a few years. And as Lisa is illustrating it, it was the perfect place to go and advance the project. We have - it's not done but it has some kind of shape and theme now.
No, don't ask about it, I don't want to let anything out of the bag until it is done!
While I was there, I discovered Aaron's Emporium. It is the best emporium I've ever been to and I wish I had lots of extra money cos I could have bought a LOT more than I did. But I was restrained. Here are some of the trims and laces I got:

The two top ones are velvet, about 5 inches wide, and embroidered and covered in sequins. $5m!!!!! Perfect for belly dancing costumes. the next one is a beautiful black lace with brown and red roses on it $3m, and the bottom two are cotton laces, 80c and $1m. amazing.

I also bought little filigree butterflies and mantissas, giant hooks and eyes, safety pins, other bits and bobs, and a new basket to replace the one I busted trying to carry too many veges home from market.

So all in all it was an incredibly productive weekend. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In honour of our wedding anniversary and my url...

I thought I would explain why I chose amamus-amatis-amant. Which, as many will know, is from the Latin conjugation of the verb amare = to love.
amo = I love, amas= you love (s), amat= he, she or it loves, amamus = we love, amatis = you love (pl), amant = they love.
MrC and I met online; he was using "amamus" as a username at the time. I spotted it, sent him a quick msg saying it was nice to know that someone else did Latin at school, and that got us talking. And here we are today :)
When it came to planning our wedding, we came up with the theme, "The Magic and Miracle of Love," but Love in the biggest sense of the word. Not just him and me, but the wider circle of our families and friends who are just as much a part of us as we are. So, the Latin conjugation of amare featured on our invitations, and we got half each on our rose gold wedding rings. MrC got the first three words as he had skinnier fingers! I therefore got the second half, with a tiny ruby between each word. To us it adds to the symbolism of the ring that is a circle without beginning or ending.
When I was trying to come up with a url, the hectic eclectic was gone, and then the idea of using my wedding ring came to me, and funnily enough, it was still free!
He took this lovely photo of our rings just now, sitting on an applique and cording sample I did last week. I thought it was more fitting than the ironing board cover!

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm in love with a pretty little hen...

...I asked her once, and I asked her again

"Oh won't you be my bride?"

"Buck buck buck buck buck!" she replied,

"I'll be yours and I'll be true, and I'll lay lots of eggs for you,

I'll be yours for the rest of my life..."

I loved that song when I was a kid. Looking at it now it's a bit suss! hehehe. Anyway I am off on a quilting retreat on Friday afternoon, and the retreat block is a real laugh!

What a pair of cuties!! The brief was the pattern and having to use plaids. I don't want a big ol' pile of these blocks but my sister likes it so I'm hoping one of us will win so she can have them!

Now, poached, scrambled, or fried? :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Today we are six!

MrC and I celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary today. That's about 8 and a bit years of being together. How cool is that!
I was a lot fatter, MrC had a wee bit more hair on head and face but otherwise we are much the same. More in love than ever too.
Things I have learnt from marriage to date:
  • It's the biggest ongoing UFO I have ever taken on
  • Just when I think I really know him, he surprises me
  • Every day there is something to be thankful for, even if it is a shit day
  • Growing older together is the best!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stitch and ...Giggle?

Yesterday the fabulous Joie held a "stitch in" in her fab sewing room which could fit mine three times over plus an ensuite! Luckily as a result it fitted six sewing and socialising women comfortably. What I loved is that the three of us who were there to actually sew, all got our projects done, by someone else! I mended and adjusted Joie's things while AlohaAroha blanket stitched around the applique of a retreat block for me, and Joie whipstitched the seams of an 18th C shift for A. All yick jobs that were made so much fun by good company, good food and good light.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Making things last longer.

I've been busy this evening and last evening making little trousers last another season for a sprouting 4 year old. She is at that age where she's all "up" and no "out", and flashing her ankles like a Bay City Roller, which is not de rigeur this season. So I've been having fun coming up with creative ways to get another few inches out of some of her jeans. Here's the results:

Pictured with the fabrics I used. Pink cords got a cuff of stretch bengaline that I cut to follow the line of the flare - straight strips won't work on flares of course. Unless they are gathered into frills like the ones on the two pairs of jeans. The butterfly print is from my stash as is its sparkly trim. The black embroidered velvet on the black ones is cut out of an old skirt I was going to boot. Sooooo pretty!
Today I complained in the office that it wasn't fair, I wanted to wear embroidered trousers too. It was pointed out to me that I WAS wearing embroidered trousers, very pretty ones actually. But they aren't quite so cute as these ones :)

My new Kitchen Love

Remember me saying that the cake mixer stopped working mid cupcake preparation? Weell, I decided that at 44 and being an avid baker, I deserved a Kenwood Chef. Deserve is such a useful word don't you find?

And here it is. The old Sunbeam is being mended and will probably end up on Trademe. It is only 350W but this new one is 900W. MORE POWER!!! Given that I could cream 1kg of butter with 1kg of sugar in the old one, this baby should be able to mix concrete. Not that I ever mix concrete in My kitchen.

I do love it. I remember the thrill when I bought the Sunbeam Retro, which reminded me of the one I learnt to bake with. It took one pavlova to remind me why my mother and i hated that Sunbeam mixer - the unlockable turntable. I put all the ingredients into it, cranked it up to high and walked away from it. When I turned back, I could only watch in horror as the white goopy mess spun up and out of the bowl in a perfect round centrifugal arc that scribed itself up the walls and across the floor. And over me as I rushed in to turn it off. After laughing myself silly, I had to spend quite some time cleaning it off. You know what sugar is like.

ANYWAY, this new honey has a cover, a locked base and the beater does the moving. I haven't used it yet but watch this space, move over Delia, Julia, Gordon and Jamie, MrsC has entered the building!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September morn...

My goodness, into my second month of blogging already! It's been a day. Lovely weather, spring is making an early play for supremacy, noone is arguing.
This week I discovered something. About how people hear what we say. It's definitely a lesson for me! I want to say my piece and because I know I'm right, "they" should listen. Trouble is, being right means often being righteous, and noone listens to righteous people. I've discovered that being understood is better. When people understand they think we are wise. Wise beats right like a royal flush beats a pair of 2's!
The trick is being wise not right, cos right comes automatically, but wisdom takes more effort.
Ah well. Life is a journey for a reason I guess, gives us time to get better at living it. Then we die. This is why I prefer to believe in reincarnation. Seems a terrible waste otherwise.

Monday, August 31, 2009

myBlock, a project worth supporting

A wonderful friend of mine has been working her tushy off to get a project up and running called myBlock.
I can't really describe how it works and I don't need too 'cos she made a bunch of videos that explain it all! Here is a link to it:
(Note: to watch the videos I suggest running them minimised and go make a cuppa, then replay. This prebuffers them no matter what connection speed you have. And yes, that IS me and MrC)
I've supported it, I AM supporting it, because I believe in the importance of community, and of connecting with people.
I also believe in Anne-Marie (aka Maz) who is in the main video trying not to look nervous (she tells me that she imagined she was talking to me not the camera when she did it, what a honey!) I think she did an amazing job with these and they are a project all on their own. They are about showing how important being connected is for people. :)
Anyway gotta dash, more later!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


So quickly, thanks to the wonders of internet publicity, my BOMs have found a home and will be a queen size quilt after all. :) A friend is going to help complete it for her bed. I love collaborative quilts, they somehow seem more like what quilting was meant to be. Mind you I also love non-collaborative quilts. Heck I just love quilts!!!

My August winnings

I'm so excited! Every month my quilting guild has a block of the month, aka a BOM. Members who wish to make as many of these as they want to and each BOM enters you into a sweepstake to win the lot. We are given a pattern and a colour scheme indication. I made five, and 30 were submitted so the guild split them into two lots of 15, one of which I won! I got all of my own back as I got the darker, more antiquey interpretations of this block, which is my thing.

Here they are all laid out. MrC is very good at placing blocks and this is how he thought they should go. I can sew them up and edge them to make a lap quilt, or make ten more, add a border or two and make a queen size quilt. What should I do?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SPCA Cupcake Day fun

I've been making cupcakes for tomorrow which is SPCA cupcake day. To be honest I don't really care who gets the money for them, I just lurve making cupcakes. They are so insanely prissy and cute!

I've made my usual rose-flavoured ones, and a batch of chocolate for good measure. The white chocolate butterflies I made a few weeks ago have been augmented with pink and chocolate coloured ones, little flowers and chocolate pairs of leaves. A few silver balls on the choc ones to finish them off.

I am no expert in making decorations but I have discovered there are a few products that make it all sooo easy. Lustre powders that you can turn into metallic paint with the addition of some gin or vodka, baking paper and the one product that will turn a trip to Snotfight into a pleasure, disposable icing bags.

Here are the pink and choc decos, note the butterfly pics under the baking paper that I used as patterns.

These cakes turned out quite flat - in spite of having 2 teaspoons of baking powder to one cup of flour, which is twice the usual proportion, they really didn't rise into a nice curved top. I think this is because they are too big. Normally I make teency ones but these ones are muffin sized. So, by using a good firm butter icing, I made an initial 'pile in the middle:

then worked into the middle to form a wee Mt KauKau of icing.

A perfect slope on which to perch the butterflies.

The sad thing is that I think I've blown up my cake mixer, it just stopped working between one batch of icing and the other so I had to make the chocolate with a hand held one *sigh*. Perhaps it's time to get that Kenwood I've always pined for...

Friday, August 28, 2009

One of life's great mysteries

Am I the only person who has put two and two together on this issue?
Banksy is a famous and anonymous graffiti artist in the UK, he always covers his face and his identity is a closely guarded secret.
Stig is a famous and anonymous test driver on Top Gear, in spite of a bogus report that he was Michael Schumacher recently.
So, I find myself asking, is Stig Banksy? Is Banksy Stig? Are they one and the same? Just how many famous, anonymous people can one country have?
It's not as important an issue as world peace, but it did make me think..

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hello world

Cor this is a bit scary, my first blog post ever. Since reading Ben Elton's Blind Faith, I'd gone right off the idea, but recently I've found reading blogs about interesting people who do things that interest interesting. So, why not.