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

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Home Again

As much as we love being away in the caravan, it’s always nice to return home safe and sound after a trip away.  That’s what I think, anyway, Robin said he would be happy to stay away even longer!  My first job was to put the Christmas stuff away.  Down came the Christmas wall hangings and table runner, the wreath, my cheeky Santas were packed away, as were my trio of “golden” trees which adorn the small window sill.  These were replaced with the more usual brass jugs, after I’d given them a quick clean.  I didn't put out all my ornaments this year, as we were going away for three weeks straight after Christmas.  Everything is now back in the crates, which need to be taken back up to the loft.  And Gemma has settled down to being at home again.  Here she is stretched out in front of the big sitting room windows, soaking up the warm sunshine streaming in.

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Gemma is happy to be home

So what else have I been doing?  Checking out my projects for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge was top of the list.  I had to decide on exactly what I wanted to stitch, and had several designs to choose from.  Maybe I can do one or other of the designs the following year for RSC.   And sorted out some green fabrics.  Hope to get stitching those greens in the next day or so.

Remember my “Roll the Dice” trick to pick a UFO project each week?  It’s certainly been a while.   I’ve decided to complete those “”half done” items which have been hanging around before I start the list again for 2020.  First up is the baby boy (donation) cot quilt with diggers hard at work – big boys toys for a little boy.  Gemma thinks she is helping me layer the quilt on the floor!  This will get some simple straight line quilting with my walking foot. 

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Baby boy quilt

I’ve got roast chicken in the oven and it smells divine.  After plenty of BBQ meals and salads while we were away, it’s nice to have something slow cooked again.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Family, Holiday and a little stitching

Just in case you are wondering, yes, we are still on holiday.  During our time in Hawkes Bay we called in to see my sister Kathleen and her husband Dennis, who live in Hastings.

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Kathleen with me

There were two “new to us” places to stay at while we traveled slowly southwards.  Guess it’s no coincidence that they were both by breweries!  The first was GodsOwn Brewery – Godfrey the brewer was originally from South Africa, married to Kiwi wife Rachel, and they have realised their dream of brewing craft beers on their own piece of rural paradise.  Of course, we had to meet for 4zees in the large safari tent.  Geoff and Robin ordered the tasting selection of six different beers, and they arrived in quite an impressive wooden rack.

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Trying GodsOwn beer

Our last night on our caravan safari was spent camped on the river bank at Mangatainoka Reserve. This is a very significant stretch of water, in the history of beer brewing.  In 1889 Henry Wagstaff stopped on the banks of the Mangatainoka River to boil up a pot of tea.  The water tasted so good that he decided to build a brewery, and so Tui Brewery began.  All these years later Tui Brewery is still going strong, producing plenty of Tui beer, incidentally, Robin’s beer of choice, although I’m not a beer drinker. 

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Camping besides the Mangatainoka River

While we were camped here, it would be rude not to walk across the road to the famous Tui Brewery, don't you think.  It took us no time at all – the beer drinkers were happy, while others had coffee and hot chocolate.  And here is the famous seven storey brew tower, built in 1931, so brewers could use gravity to turn malt into beer. Strangely, the builders forgot to put in a lift and stairs, and this quirk has only added intrigue to the site’s long history. The tower is now classified as a Category 1 Heritage Listed building and has been earthquake strengthened.  Advertising photos often  show a bevy of beautiful Tui Girls leaning out of the windows, but they weren’t there when we were visiting. 

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The famous Tui Tower

We stopped for lunch at Henley Lake, full of ducks, geese and swans, which certainly had Gemma intrigued.  These birds were much too big for her, so she was happy to peep through the screen door at them.

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Henley Lake, Masterton

Then it was just a short drive to our last stop on this trip, at Carterton for a caravan club rally.  The Wairarapa club are hosting a double celebration, the 20th Regional Rally, and their club’s 80th Birthday.  Quite a lot to celebrate.

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80th Birthday Cake

And lucky us, we won two raffles during the weekend.  Coffee, mugs and biscuits in one, and a pretty tea towel and chocolate in the other.  All very nice indeed.

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Raffle prizes

Blog reader Helen popped in to visit us at Carterton, arriving in her rather flash red car, and bringing some home baking with her, so kind.  We had a good catch up, and it was interesting that she knew our caravan club friend Val from their working lives some years ago.  What a small world.  Helen duly admired our new caravan, my stitching projects, and of course Gemma.  Helen is a great knitter and I was most impressed to learn that she spins and knits fleece from her own small herd of alpacas!  (Such a shame I forgot to take photos.)  And I’m still slowly stitching along, hand quilting a little more on the border of my Autumn stitchery.

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This is a long three day weekend (Wellington Anniversary Weekend) so we will finally arrive home on Monday.  I can't wait to make friends with my sewing machine again!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

We love exploring

It’s no secret that we love exploring and finding new things when we are out and about.  High on our “must do” list was a trip to find the Kaimanawa Wall.  After having read about it some time ago, we pooled cars and drove up the Napier-Taupo Road, turning into a pine plantation, and then driving through native forest onto Clements Mill Road.  The GPS told us when we finally arrived, but where was this mystery wall ?  Perhaps by that green sign we just drove past?

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Kaimanawa Wall

According to the Dept. of Conservation sign, “the rock formation has been scientifically established to be part of a large Ignimbrite  outcrop formed about 330,000 years ago”, a type of rock that results when pyroclastic pumice solidifies after a volcanic blast. The structure seems to bear the hallmarks of a deliberate construction with neat rows of stacked blocks. Precision joints and surfaces appear carved or sculpted.

Some sceptics believe that the stone wall is man made, constructed by people about 2000 years ago, who pre-date the Maori population. The most heated area of contention about the wall is its age. If someone built the formation around 2000 years ago, then a mysterious group of people must have settled New Zealand before the first Maori – however, we believe the scientific explanation.  This was certainly very interesting to see, and it certainly did look like cut blocks of stone stacked together.  I’m pleased we made the effort to travel out to see it.

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Kaimanawa Wall

On the drive back there was another attraction we had read about and wanted to see.   At the Opepe Bush Historic Reserve there is a tiny cemetery which tells the story of a surprise attack in 1869 by Maori Chief Te Kooti  on 14 members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry camping in this area.  The attack left nine British soldiers dead, and their bodies are buried in the cemetery.  There are four graves in this tiny cemetery, and another tucked away nearby.  This was a piece of New Zealand history which we were unaware of.

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Cemetery at Opepe Reserve

We spent a couple of nights at NZMCA camp close to Taupo Airport.  Always a busy place with the airport not far away, and the rescue helicopter across the road.  and then there is the never ending stream of sky divers jumping out of airplanes and floating down to earth overhead.    Gemma couldn’t care less about all this drama, and tucked herself away under our outdoors step.  Much better, now those people falling out of the sky wont be falling on her!

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As I was sitting outside doing some stitching in the afternoon sunshine, the lady in a campervan parked next to us came to see what I was doing.  It turned out that she is a quilter too!  Currently she is working on Diamond Painting and brought her current project over to show me.  I don’t think I could cope with this, minute little beads which have to be placed precisely on a tiny graph.  But the results are visually stunning, I have to agree.

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My friendly crafty neighbour at Taupo camp

Isn’t this a gorgeous view from the Lookout at Taupo.  That's Lake Taupo and the mountains in the background – just a little hazy but still looking lovely.

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View from the Lookout

I've managed to keep up with my blog reading while we are away, and I see that the Rainbow Scrap Challenge has started for 2020.  So I’m really missing not being able to get started just yet – I’ll have to be patient and wait till we return home after all this tripping around.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Hand Stitching

Its hard work being on holiday, places to go, and people to see.  But I’ve managed to squeeze a little hand stitching in here and there.  One of my traveling projects is a little traced stitchery of a steam engine.  So far I've stitched the wheels, and feel like singing “the wheels of the train go round and round” as I’m sitting here stitching.  This will eventually be made into a cot quilt, I think.

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Steam train stitchery

And tonight I sat outside with our caravan friends and did a little more on the border of my Autumn stitchery, hand quilting around each little Autumn leaf in the border fabric. 

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Hand quilting the border

So what holiday adventures have we had since I last reported?  The annual Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth was on our “must see” list.  We joined throngs of other people as we walked though the park, family groups, excited children, teens, and plenty of oldies like us.  The waterfall changed colours as we stood and watched, and the peacock was a sight to behold.  There were lights through the trees, on the bridge across the lake, and plenty of light wands being brandished about.

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Lights at Pukekura Park

Our next adventure on our safari was a two day trip along the Forgotten World Highway, ( SH43) starting from Stratford.  SH43 is New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail at 155kms long and follows ancient Maori trade routes and pioneering farm tracks.  Eventually we arrived at our stop for the night, the Whangamomona Campground, formerly the local school, and rather rustic.

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Whangamomona (doesn't that name just roll off your tongue) was first settled in 1895, and was once a bustling frontier town.  The 300 residents worked on roading and railway construction, and farming, but sadly by the 1960s the population had declined to about 20 residents.  But they were a force to be reckoned with.  When changes to the local boundarys were mooted, the locals strongly disagreed and declared themselves a Republic in 1989, and held their own Presidential Elections.  The famous Republic Day is held every two years and attracts visitors from far and wide, and Presidents have included a dog and a goat, with the occasional local wearing the chains of office too.  We spent our “happy hour” at the famous Whangamomona Hotel to soak up some of the “Whanga”atmosphere.

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Whangamomona Hotel

The next morning we continued on the second half of our journey, crossing up and over the 4th saddle of the trip, and next up was the Moki Tunnel.  The single-lane 180m long Moki Tunnel was built in 1936 and is known locally as the 'Hobbit's Hole'. Home to fossilized giant crabs, the floor of the tunnel was lowered in 1989, increasing the height to 7m to allow access for triple-decked stock trucks. It has a timber gabled roof and hand carved walls.  We stopped the car, out I rushed to take a photo, then we were on our way again.

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Emerging from the Hobbit’s Hole tunnel

We are still traveling, with more adventures beckoning, and hopefully a couple of lazy afternoons for stitching. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Happy Campers

We spent 5 days at Foxton Beach to see the New Year in.  The New Year’s Eve dance was the highlight of the rally, and the hall was crowded with revelers.  A bit too crowded for us so we sat around outside the vans in the evening, having a drink and a nibble, and enjoying each other’s company. Although we did make an effort and put in an appearance at the hall in time to see the New Year in at midnight.

The sun and sky had an eerie tinge to it, smoke from the terrible fires which are ravaging Australia.  Sadly, the fire damage seems to be getting worse, and our hearts go out to our Aussie cousins who have lost lives, homes, businesses, livestock and property.  Because of the difference in our trees, plants and conditions here in New Zealand, we don’t suffer the sort of catastrophic fires as they do in Australia.

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Smoke haze from Australia over the sun

Then a group of seven vans left Foxton to go on Safari, led by Owen and Helen.  We will be traveling to all sorts of exciting places over the next couple of weeks.  Driving  up SH3 through Patea, we stopped to get  diesel for the 4WD.  In case you hadn’t heard, I seem to have a bit of a reputation with laundry obsession – and was tickled pink to see this sign “Lost Sock Laundromat”  at the service station.   No, I didn’t stop and put a load of laundry on.

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Across the road was the Aotea Canoe, a Patea icon.  Erected in 1933, this is a token of remembrance to ancestors Turi and Rongorongo and fellow voyages.

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Aotea Canoe in Patea

Then it was on to Hawera for the next two nights, staying at the NZMCA Park.  The wind was so strong, it blew and blew relentlessly, not nice at all.

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There was even a welcoming committee which came waddling towards , a mother duck and her teenage ducklings, it seemed.  We knew not to feed them around the vans, or we will never get rid of them.  And taking a walk around I saw these beautiful hydrangeas, such lovely colours.  It was through these bushes that naughty Gemma escaped out the door and ran – Robin was close behind trying to scoop her up and wasn’t at all interested in the gardens he told me after all this excitement was over.

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Duck family and hydrangea bushes

Mt Egmont (Taranaki) was a little hazy but still looking lovely – of course I needed a photo.   Mount Taranaki is New Zealand's most perfectly formed volcano. It is around 120,000 years old and last erupted in 1775 and volcanologists agree that the mountain is 'dormant' rather than extinct.  At lower altitudes there are tall rimu and kamahi trees; higher up the volcano, sub-alpine shrubs and herb fields are found above the snow line. Lush rainforests can be found on the mountain’s slopes and are a result of the area’s high rainfall and mild coastal climate.

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Mt Egmont

Apart from escaping out the caravan door and running away (naughty girl), Gemma seems rather unsettled and anxious this trip, and we presume it is because of the incessant wind.  In between times she has been relaxing on the bed. 

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Nap time

Gemma has also taken a liking to her new favourite toy, a white feather I brought from home.  She pounces on it, tosses it in the air, and carries it around in her mouth like a trophy.  And finding an open locker in the caravan is always worth exploring.

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Gemma with her feather, and exploring an open locker

I haven’t done a great deal of stitching this trip, just a little hand quilting, but nothing worthy of a photo at this stage.  I brought three hand stitching projects plus my knitting, and I’m sure I’ll get some more done soon.  But it doesn't really matter on holiday time, does it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Reviewing 2019

It’s always interesting looking back at what was achieved during the year.  My first finish for the year was not till March, I think we must have been busy tripping away in the caravan for some time early in the year.  I finally completed my long winded Animal ABC quilt, which had been hanging around for ages.  I had fun collecting animal print fabrics for this quilt, and pen friend Janet from Australia really helped me out when she printed out a picture of a Quokka to send me to use for the letter Q.  This one I’m keeping for future babies in the family.

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Animal ABC quilt

Next up was making six draw string project bags to put my UFOs in, so much nicer than having things stuffed in plastic.  I really didn’t want to get involved with making vinyl pouches with zips, that seemed much too hard for me, so did a simple design using netting and various fabric choices for the top and bottom.  The bags certainly do their job very well, and I can see at a glance exactly which project is put away inside each bag.

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Project Bags

The final finish for March were two little nine patch cot quilts.  I’d had nine patch blocks stitched and hanging about for ages, and finally did something with them.  Not too sure if I used all of them up, there could well be some more hiding away in a crate somewhere.

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Two nine patch cot quilts

In May I put together all the HST blocks which dated back to our UK trip in 2008.  These traveled with me, and I noted down flights, train and boat trips, where we had stayed, attractions visited, people we had met, all that sort of thing.  A real fabric diary of our wonderful trip.  The blocks were finally stitched into pinwheels, and assembled together.  I plan to use this as a quilt backing sometime in the future, and will probably have to add fabric to the outsides to get the correct dimensions.

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Memory Pinwheels

In June I finally completed my selvedge bag, and stitched two little mug rugs for overseas pen friends.

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June finishes

And July saw me stitching up a donation cot quilt from neutral string blocks.  These were originally made for a Quiltville Mystery quilt, which I obviously didn't keep working on.  In fact, I have enough of these blocks left to make another two donation cot quilts in the future!

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Donation quilt

August was a great month, with three finishes, although you must remember that I had been working on these projects off and on for a while.  Two large quilts came back from being commercially quilted, Running Free, for my grand-daughter Megan, and a Pinwheel quilt for a friend’s grand-daughter, so I had bindings to apply and stitch down.

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And then I completed Jingle Christmas Runner for our coffee table, a combination of stitcheries and piecing in Christmas fabrics. 

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Jingle Table Runner

Another Christmas quilt was completed in November, always good to get this sort of project finished before Christmas.  This was my Christmas Mystery Quilt and it started with a whole lot of 5inch squares of festive fabric from a Sew Wot Christmas gift a while ago from Helen.

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Mystery Quilt

This was my first year taking part in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge and each month I diligently stitched both Bow Tie blocks and Selvedge Asterisk blocks in the suggested colours.  I worked hard to get both projects completed before the end of the year.  The Bow Tie was a donation quilt, and the Asterisk quilt was made for my car.

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RSC projects

And last but not least December saw me busy making cushions for the caravan.  I completed a stitchery Christmas cushion, then made six other cushions from extra matching  upholstery fabric I had purchased.

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Cushions for the caravan

I like to support the charity Foster Hope who gives items to children taken into foster care, and this year I have donated four cot quilts, eight small soft toys, and a dozen draw string bags.  These bags are used by the children to keep their toiletries in, or used for pencils and such like.  And after the terrible tragedy of the Christchurch Mosque shooting rampage, I joined many other quilters from New Zealand and around the world to make heart blocks in green, as requested.

And I’m pleased to say that I even managed some knitting this year and completed a blue toddler’s jumper.  Then two other projects which had been hanging around for ages finally got finished, a pretty pink hooded baby jumper, and a cream winter cardigan for myself -  I wont tell you how long that has been waiting for me to get on and finish!  (Won’t mention the socks I’ve been knitting the last couple of winters and are still not finished.)

We have been out and about in our caravan for various trips throughout the year, some short, and some a little longer.  Our big trip this year was riding the Indian Pacific train from Perth to Sydney.  That was really enjoyable, wonderful food, and lots of off train excursions to interesting places.  We had boarded this train the previous year and the trip was cancelled due to a derailment further up the line, so this was our second attempt to do this trip.  Luckily it all went to plan this time.

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Stop on the Indian Pacific train trip - Cook, “The Middle of Nowhere”

So that’s been my year, another busy one, filled with stitching, social outings and lots of caravan trips.   Meeting up with my Sew Wot friends each fortnight is always special, and I attend the local quilt club when I can.  It’s been a great year, we can't ask for more than that, can we?