Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Marshmallows and Roses

It wasn’t too bad a day for a BBQ yesterday.  The wind was a little blustery to start with, and by mid afternoon had dropped right away and the temperatures warmed up considerably.  It was a bit of a “bon voyage” get together,  with our friends wishing us well on our upcoming “South Island Odyssey Tour”.  We supplied the sausages, bread rolls and tasty roast potatoes, and everyone else contributed with salads.  One friend brought along a lovely big plate of home made chocolate éclairs, which complemented my Boysenberry Marshmallow Dessert.  I’ll share the recipe as it is so easy to make and looks good when you need to a dessert for a pot luck meal.  Do try it and let me know what you think.
Boysenberry Marshmallow Dessert
1 dessert spoon gelatine, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 pkt soft marshmallows, 1/2 pint whipped cream, 3/4 cup boiling water, 1 tin boysenberries
Dissolve gelatine in boiling water, add vanilla and fruit, and leave to cool.  Add marshmallows cut in half.  Fold in whipped cream, place in bowl and refrigerate.
DSCF8770 Boysenberry Marshmallow Dessert
Our friend Trish (of chocolate éclair fame)  brought along a big bunch of roses from her garden.  Trish loves her roses and spends a lot of time caring for them, but told us that the rose bushes were getting rather battered about with the incessant wind lately.  This mixed bunch of varieties not only look lovely, but have a most delightful scent too.
DSCF8777 A beautiful bunch of roses from Trish

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pinestream Quilters 1st meeting of the year

It seemed a long time since our last quilt club meeting, way back in November, so that probably explains why there was such a happy bunch of quilters all chatting madly together last night.  The January meeting is always rather informal and we do not have a speaker for this month.  Instead, members have the opportunity to set up stalls to sell their extra quilting goods.  Most of us have plenty of these, don’t we,  - in fact sometimes we wonder if some of our “stuff” doesn’t get together at night and breed!  I shared a table with Jenni F and we laid out our fabric, buttons, orphan blocks and books for members to peruse and hopefully purchase.  We didn’t sell everything, but both of us went home with less than we arrived with, so that’s got to be good.  I noticed that some of the other tables had smaller pieces of fabric packed up in “grab bags”, and these sold very well. 
Then it was time for show and tell, although I must admit that after all this time between meetings there didn’t seem to be an extra lot of quilts on show.  Perhaps everyone was away on holidays and didn’t have too much time to spend sewing.  These two pretty little quilts were made to be donated to  the Neo Natal Ward at Hutt Hospital.  Our Pinestream members are very committed and make lots of little quilts for this good cause throughout the year.
DSCF8757 Two quilts for the Neo Natal Ward
Sharon brought along her quilt which will be donated to brighten up the Palliative Care Unit of Wellington Hospital.  Those cheeky looking cats came in a panel, she told me, and then she carefully pieced all those stripes for the sashings.  She completed the quilt with a checkerboard border.  What a lovely quilt, and it will surely be most appreciated.
DSCF8753 Sharon’s cheeky cat quilt is hospital bound
Another bright and breezy quilt was this one from Anne, full of black and white spots set off with plenty of colour.  This was a class from Thimbles and Threads, and it certainly looks like it would have been a lot of fun to make.  There’s stars in there, houses, trees and goodness knows what else!  Anne’s quilt was machine quilted by Sue B, who always does a great job.
DSCF8752 Anne’s fun quilt
Burgundy and cream as a colour scheme always looks good, and Barbara bought along this lovely quilt.  Very simple, with log cabin blocks in the corners, and a nice restful colour scheme.
 DSCF8754 Barbara’s burgundy and cream quilt
Katherine is well known for working with wool, and she brought along three quilts for show and tell.  I rather liked this one with the addition of blue crosses stitched behind sheeting, making it look quite ethereal.
DSCF8759 Wool and sheeting quilt made by Katherine
So those are the highlights from our January meeting, and as usual it was a great night out.  The supper was as delicious as ever, especially the hand made chocolates – I was very restrained and only had one!  It was good to catch up with members I hadn’t seen in a while over the Christmas break. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Hero

I’m the first to admit that I am not the computer expert in this household, and tend to work on a “need to know” basis.  As long as I have the necessary know-how to do the tasks I want to on the computer, I’m happy.  All this behind the scenes stuff is too much for me.  But then again, I’m not a complete dummy, after all, I do know how to e-mail and write letters, documents and blogs.  However I needed Robin’s help recently, as  I’m trying hard to get my quilt documentation up to date.  There’s no trouble with the more recent projects as the digital photos are stored on the computer and I know how to do that.  But I’ve got heaps of old photos that needed scanning and uploading.  After being shown several times and failing miserably, I asked Robin to do it for me.  We worked as a team, with me running up and down the hallway to place each photo in the scanner, and with him uploading them onto the laptop.  Isn’t this new fangled wireless technology wonderful!  So Robin is certainly my hero.
DSCF8676 Robin busy uploading my quilt photos
Writing up the story behind each quilt is quite a slow process, but I’m getting there.  It will take some time to get the whole job done, so I try and do a bit each week, writing then printing off the pages.  Luckily, along with the old photos I have kept details of the size of each quilt, and fabric samples as well.  I’d forgotten about some of the quilts I had made long ago and given away, so it is a real trip down memory lane. 
DSCF8677 .Quilt document folder – made by my daughter

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not a single stitch

We’ve just come home from a long weekend (3 day) caravan rally at Opaki School, Masterton.  This is a lovely rural school surrounded by large mature trees, and we noticed a whole lot of scare crows surrounding the school vegetable patch. Most of them seemed to be in quite a state of disarray and were practically falling over, so I imagine they had been on scare crow duty  for quite some time.  There was fun and entertainment arranged for us campers all weekend, from a Dutch Auction, BBQ meal, and a musical evening too.  Then we had morning teas and happy hours every day, so it was certainly all go.  The weather ranged from hot and sunny with us sheltering under a shady tree then changed to wet, wild and windy.  The forecast promised us some hail as well, but that didn’t eventuate.
DSCF8723 One of the scare crows seen at Opaki School
Sadly I didn’t have time to do a single stitch of my hand-work which I had diligently packed in the caravan.  .  But I did notice one happy camper doing some stitching in the hall, so went over to have a look at what she was working on.  She was doing cross stitch, and her pattern had been digitally produced from a family photo, some how or other.  I understand that there are computer programmes which can do this.
Am I stitching today now we have returned home?  Sadly again, the answer is no.  But I’ve done a large load of washing, and will be ironing shortly before the day is out.  We’ve unpacked the caravan and cleaned the fridge and bathroom, then vacuumed the floor.  What I really need to do is to get my light box out and trace out a couple of stitchery patterns.  We have an extra  “looooong”  caravan trip coming up soon and I must make sure that I have plenty of stitching all prepared for me to work on.  There’s sure to be some time in between the travelling and sight seeing when I’ll be able to relax over a bit of hand stitching.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shirley’s Wild Animal Quilt

We met up with two other couples, old friends of many years, for lunch yesterday, and surprise, surprise, the other ladies are quilters too.  We weren’t always quilters, but as the years moved on, we started quilting, one by one.  Shirley had brought along the quilt top she had just completed for us other two quilters to admire.  It is a large single sized quilt, and her husband Lewis is completely hidden behind it as he holds it up for the photo shoot.
DSCF8702 Shirley and her Wild Animal quilt
This was a “block of the month” quilt and Shirley purchased it from Grandmother’s Garden Quilt Shop in Hamilton. The fabrics supplied were lovely batiks and Shirley enjoyed stitching each block as it was sent out.  There was an awful lot of work involved in this quilt as every spot and stripe on the animals is appliquéd onto the body fabric.  This will be a gift for her little grand-daughter in Auckland, who is sure to love it for years to come.  Shirley did a wonderful job, and as she commented, she now just has to quilt it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Aunt Dawn

I had lost touch with my Dad’s side of the family when my parents split up many years ago when I was just 8 years old.  My sister Kathleen had been researching the family tree, and after discovering a formerly unknown cousin, the pieces all fitted together and we made contact again several years ago.  My aunt wasn’t anything like I had imagined.  Everything about her was dainty, from her slight build to her tiny hands and feet.  She had grey hair, cut in a fashionable bob, and her eyes twinkled from behind her glasses as she talked.  I really wanted to know about my father, as my mother refused to talk about him while we were growing up.  “Your Dad really had to grow up early”, Dawn told me.  “He left school at 12 to work in a grocer’s shop and as he was bringing home a wage, he really was the man of the house”.  Dawn told me that she had often wondered about us two girls over the years, and crocheted us both a lovely woollen rug as a “welcome back into the family” gift. 
DSCF8709 Crocheted blanket
We called in to see my aunt today and she proudly showed me her sewing area she had set up in the garage - as she doesn’t drive she has plenty of room for her sewing supplies.  Dawn loves to potter around on her sewing machine.  “Perhaps you’ll be taking up quilting next?” I asked her.  “Oh no”, she replied, “I’m couldn’t be a quilter like you”.  That’s all right Dawn,  I don’t know how to crotchet!
DSCF8695 Dawn at her sewing machine

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Letters from the Past

I was sorting through set of drawers in the spare room and came across a whole pile of old letters which I had kept and tucked away.  I knew they were there, of course, but it had slipped my mind.  So you can imagine just how long it took to sort through them, and then, decide just what I was going to do with them all.  Shall I keep them, or toss them out?  What did I find?  A whole swag of letters from two elderly aunts, one has since passed on and the other one is now in a rest home.  There were half a dozen huge epistles sent from my friend in Dunedin.  She used to start writing a letter, lose it, find it again weeks later, and just carry on where she left off.  I found letters from my sister, and from my son when he left home to go to Uni, and he carried on writing the occasional letter to his Mum when he moved to Auckland.  My daughter was a much more prolific letter writer and wrote very regularly when she was a young stay-at-home young mother. 
DSCF8688 Letters from my son and daughter once  they  left home
I’ve decided to keep the letters from my two children and have put them away safe and sound in a box.  They others I will let go after I have re-read them.  So what have I learned from all this tidying up?  That the power of a letter is very strong.  In these days of e-mails, texts and quick calls, there is nothing like a “real” letter.  There is absolute joy of finding a letter from a loved one in the post box, which can be savoured and read again.  I decided to sit down and write to my elderly aunt, as her days in the rest home are no doubt very long, and a letter could well brighten her day.  I will also write a proper letter to my sister, and my two children instead of making contact by phone or email.  Hopefully they will get as much pleasure receiving their mail as I get by putting my thoughts on paper. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mending, then making Rhubarb Chutney

It’s just as well that I’m not adverse to a little mending, as it seems to crop up quite frequently in our household.  Some of the stitching on a  few of the hems on our vertical blinds come apart and the little weights had dropped out.  I think that the sun rots the stitching and no doubt the wear and tear of opening and closing does not help at all.  It’s a quick enough job to run them through the sewing machine and put a double row of stitching along the hem line.  The hardest part is unhooking them from the top track and the little chains that hold them all together at the bottom, and that’s Robin’s job.  There, all done, ready to be hung back in place.  I expect this to be an ongoing job, as I know I re-stitched the hems on some not so long ago. 
DSCF8672 Slats from vertical blinds needing re-hemming
With that little  job out of the way, it was time to make some chutney.  I’d come across a recipe for rhubarb chutney which sounded quite different.  Our crop of rhubarb is growing very well, so that’s the main ingredient ready.  What else?  Onions, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, mixed spice and ginger – I’ve got all that.  The recipe called for sultanas, but not having any I substituted raisins instead, this small change shouldn’t really make much difference, I hope.  Everything went into the preserving pan and simmered away for about an hour until the mixture reduced and thickened.  The mixture made three jars, and it is rather tasty.  It is so satisfying making this sort of thing, and the benefit is that you know exactly what goes into it. 
DSCF8674 My rhubarb chutney
As there is still quite a lot of rhubarb left, I’m going to try another new recipe.  How does rhubarb and orange jam sound?  I’ll let you know when I make it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unveiled – 200 years of Wedding Fashion

Like most “girls” I love a good wedding, and love looking at beautiful gowns, veils, and everything else that goes with the most romantic day of any girl’s life.   I spent a happy couple of hours at Te Papa Museum, Wellington, wandering around the wonderful collection of wedding gowns, the travelling exhibition  from the V & A Museum in London.  The entry fee was $15.00 with a concession charge of $13.50 for seniors, (just love those senior prices). 
DSCF8657 Te Papa Museum
Two gowns were displayed outside of the exhibition and this gown was worn by Lucy Cacroft when she wed James Ferguson in 1914.  Made of crepe-de-chine with a flowing lace veil, this gown reflected the trend of wedding dresses inspired by evening wear.
DSCF8658 Crepe-de-chine dress from 1914
When Margaret Broadbent married William Arlington in 1955, she wanted a dress with simple lines.  This dress was made by the bridal department of Thompson’s Silk Shop in Wellington.  How many Wellingtonians  used to shop at this fabric shop before it closed  down, I wonder?
DSCF8660 1955 wedding dress
Photography was not allowed inside the exhibition, as I expected.  Such a shame, as the exhibition was full of so many beautiful gowns.  So the best I could do was take a quick snap before I handed my entry ticket over.
DSCF8661 This way to the wedding gowns
The exhibition was split into ten areas in different time frames from 1800 right through till the early 2000s.  “Creating Traditions” told how lace veils were expensive in these times, and bridal caps and bonnets were often an alternative until plain tulle veils became fashionable in the 1830s.  Roses and myrtle signified love, and orange blossom was for fertility and virtue, and were used as head dresses and trimmings.  A display case showed pretty garters,  leather gloves and a lovely silk purse.  Silky underwear for the trousseau was in another case, and the fashionable bride made sure that these dainty items had her initials embroidered on them. 
The exhibition showed wedding styles from Victorian times, artistic styles from 1900 till 1930s, and gowns from society weddings of the 20s and 30s.  Although I was a young woman in the 60s, I’m afraid I wasn’t at all taken with the mini wedding gowns displayed.  (What does that say about me, I wonder, perhaps just that I am a romantic at heart).  One bride in the war years found a way to beat the ration book.  Upholstery fabric was not rationed, so her dress was made of pretty patterned lightweight upholstery fabric, found in the “From Austerity to the New Look”section.  Romantic gowns re-appeared in the “Nostalgia, Romance and the Modern Age section of 1970s to 2000s.  The last two cases contained gowns from “Celebrity Weddings” and “New Zealand Style”.  Check out Te Papa’s blog for photos of the wedding dresses.
News reel footage of royal and society weddings ran continuously in the “Film Area”.  All the ladies (and a sprinkling of men) enjoyed watching Charles and Diana, William and Kate, Elizabeth and Phillip, and the Queen Mum and  George VI as they posed for the cameras.  The exhibition was delightful, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Strangely enough, my pick of the gowns was not made for a wedding at all.  Known as the “Television Wedding Dress”, it was designed by Barbara Milne and used in TV adverts for Renault's Clio car.  It was a beautiful form fitting embroidered lace gown worn with a fine veil.  My second choice was a Hartnel designed gown, encrusted with pearls and a huge train, worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll at her wedding to Charles Sweeny in 1933.  This gown was a bit “over the top” for ordinary mortals, but obviously just the thing for a Duchess to wear, and quite beautiful never the less.   Floating home with my head full of all the lovely dresses, I wondered perhaps that I will need a return visit, as there was so much to see and take in.  For those who live nearby, or can make the trip to Wellington, do go and see the exhibition, you won’t be disappointed. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The downside of a summery Christmas

Down here in the Southern Hemisphere we celebrate Christmas in the summer season.  No Yule logs and snow for us, but sunshine all the way.  We get to enjoy BBQs, days at the beach, and relaxing under the sun umbrella while we sip a cooling drink in the afternoon.  So just what is the downside of living in paradise?  I don’t want to grizzle but I’ve spent the afternoon melting in the humid conditions while I have taken down the Christmas quilts, and hung the others back in their rightful places.  Then I carefully wrapped up my Christmas ornaments, and put them all away in their plastic crates.  Then…….I re-hung the photos in their usual places and put the other ornaments back where they belong.  All the time hot, damp and dripping in the heat.  I’m not a pretty sight, I imagine, with my damp red face.  But it’s all done now – although I did notice that my collection of brass is badly in need of a polish.  Not today though, I’m just too darn hot!
DSCF8664 Family photo back on the wall, sister Kathleen with  me on the right

Monday, January 9, 2012

I’ve got Mail

Don’t know where the Post Office has been hiding my Christmas parcel sent by Carol in South Dakota, but it finally arrived today.  What a lovely surprise it is to get a parcel of goodies through the mail.  And a nice long  letter too, so it was good to catch up with Carol’s news.  We have been pen friends for quite a few years now.  My gift was wrapped in some pretty black floral fabric with gold highlights, only a fellow quilter would think of using fabric to wrap the gift in.  Now, what’s this inside?
DSCF8650 From my quilting friend Carol
The pretty little purse has fancy stitches down the white stripes with pastel variegated thread.  It is a handy size to put some of my sewing bits and pieces in.  And the orange flower brooch was a real surprise.  Closer inspection revealed that it had been made from a zip, carefully rolled in the middle, then folded to make the flower petals – what a clever idea.  Thanks so much, Carol.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It’s been a good year

I’ve been checking back, and can proudly announce that 2011 was a reasonably productive sewing year for me.
I’ve made two large bed quilts for family members – a burgundy and cream cobblestone quilt for my niece Lisa’s belated 40th birthday, and a shaggy floral quilt to celebrate 50 years of marriage for my sister Kathleen and her husband.  Then another shaggy lap quilt for a friend who had a major health scare. 
“Remembering Graeme” was a wall quilt made for my friend Kathryn using pieces of Graeme’s shirts and ties and other various items.  I also made a table runner for Kathryn utilising some lovely silky paisley fabric from Graeme’s dressing gown.  And for another friend who collects buttons I stitched a cushion featuring a jar of buttons. 
Smaller items included two table runners, and a padded book cover.  Then there was the tablecloth made from a collection of New Zealand fabrics, and my library bag makeover with stitchery panels. 
I did quite well with Christmas projects this year, and started off early last January when I made my second  Rudolf the Reindeer stocking, just so Robin and I could have one each.  Later in the year I stitched a set of six Christmas placemats for my daughter, then another two for us to use in the caravan.  The two Snowman felt gift bags were fun to stitch for my grand-daughters, I  also rather enjoyed making my “Tree of Christmas Cheer” with it’s stitchery panel.
Knitting also featured last year – a black and white scarf for a birthday gift, and I finally completed the edging on a knitted baby blanket, which I will tuck away till needed by a new arrival.
I’m also quite proud of making plum jam, grape jelly, kiwifruit jam, and lemon honey during the year.
And for the book readers out there, for the first time ever I kept a list of books read during the year, a grand total of 68 books.  28 were thrillers with James Patterson and Lee Child figuring prominently amongst my favourite authors.  The balance is made of of biographies, animal stories, quilting books, history and cookbooks.
With quilt club meetings, stitching groups and my monthly book club meetings, it’s certainly been an interesting year.  And for 2012, there are still quite a few UFOs hanging about waiting for me to be getting on with!
DSCF7755 One of my many UFOs

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Home again

Here we are home again after a lovely Christmas/New Year break in sunny Carterton.  The weather was just as it should be during this time of year, hot and sunny.  I’ll admit to a couple of rather wet and soggy days, but it seems that the whole country suffered with the rain, and some places were really hard hit.  On arriving home we saw something strange in the hall way.  “What’s that?”, Robin asked.  It was a pile of quilting magazines all over the floor.  It seems that an earthquake had sent the box flying off a high shelf while we were away on holiday.  Luckily this was the only damage and was easily put right.
DSCF8642 Earthquake had sent the box of magazines flying off the shelf
Once home, we got on with the long job of unloading the caravan.  Empty the fridge, and wash it out all ready for next time.  In and out we traipsed with armfuls of clothes, books and and other sundry items.  While all this was happening Muffy decided that her holiday wasn’t quite over and settled back down on the caravan couch for yet another snooze. 
DSCF8643 Muffy back in the caravan while we are unpacking
The caravan is now a “Christmas free zone”.   The Santa wall-hangings in the caravan have now been taken down and the usual ones put up in their place.  I removed the Christmas red-work cushion covers and put the freshly laundered plain ones back on.   No doubt they will all come out again next time.  Happy New Year to all readers and fellow bloggers, may 2012 be a wonderful year to you all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Holiday Read – St Holst

I have been reading “A Home Grown Cook”, by biography by Alison Holst, who is affectionately known as St Holst in our household.  This unassuming Kiwi woman first appeared on New Zealand television many years ago to show home cooks how to prepare healthy, affordable and tasty family meals.  Who can remember Chef Graeme Kerr of the Galloping Gourmet cooking shows who used a plethora of high priced and exotic ingredients which were out of the range of most of us?  His show was a bit much for ordinary Kiwis to cope with, and we embraced Alison's style and down to earth presentations.  Alison Holst tells of her family history, idyllic childhood and how her cooking career progressed.  From tutoring, television appearances, to representing the Egg Board and Meat Board, she took her cooking skills throughout New Zealand and overseas.  She has also been a prodigious fundraiser for charities.  Alison Holst was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 1985, and appointed Commander of the British Empire for Services to Home Science in 1987.  In 1997 she received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Otago, and in 2011 was made Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
The chapter “Cakes and Quilts” tells how Alison started quilting after seeing a Toronto friend’s quilts.  A trip to the local quilt shop was a revelation, and Alison purchased fabrics and stitched her own designs of appliqué blocks during her long hours of travelling.   She designed the blocks to tell the story of her life and family, the Maple Leaf block to honour her first visit to Canada, and a block with scones and a tea pot in memory of her Mother.  The strawberries were for daughter Kirsten who picked the fruit during a holiday job, and a rooster in memory of all the family chooks.  Alison appliquéd two figures in centre of her quilt, herself and her beloved husband Peter, depicted gathering the bounty from their garden.
DSCF8405 Hand appliquéd quilt made by Alison Holst
Alison Holst has produced 99 cookbooks to date, and a quick check in my kitchen shows that I have 9 of them.  A couple of them are falling to pieces, a sign of a well used cookbook indeed.  And wrapped up for Christmas was a nice new addition to my cookbooks, “100 great ways to use slow cookers and crockpots”, by Alison Holst and her son Simon.  Many thanks to grand-daughter Megan for this gift, it will be much used, I am sure.
DSCF8529Look what I got for Christmas
We have had a change in our holiday weather and the hot sunny Wairarapa sunshine has been replaced by heavy rain.  So the shorts and sandals have been replaced with warmer clothing,  shoes and socks and the gazebo has been forsaken.  It was a good time to visit Pukaha Mount Bruce and get a peek at the rare white kiwi chick.  Pop over to our other blog at www.romanyrambler.blogspot.com and read all about this rare and beautiful fluffy white baby.