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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

G is for Gingerbread Man

Another of my Christmas ABC blocks is done – this time it is a rather handsome Gingerbread man clutching his Christmas stocking.  .  I must admit that I’ve never actually baked Gingerbread men at all for my family – does that make me a bad Mum?

The letter G

I’ve completed this block while away on another road trip in our caravan.  We are currently staying on a farm in Ongaonga.  Across New Zealand landowners who have space and a connection to the NZ Motor Home Association sometimes offer room on their properties for fellow members of the NZMCA (like us) to stay for a few days.  As we don’t “freedom camp” on the road side, these properties give us safe camping in some delightful areas of the country.  We called into a laundromat to do a load of washing when we left our last stop-over, and on arrival at the farm hung it out to dry in the bright sunshine.  I have a dinky little travelling clothesline, plus I needed an extra line strung under the trees.  As I always say, “Happiness is clean laundry”.  Holidays or not, the washing still needs to get done.

We are camping here in glorious isolation, the birds are singing their little hearts out, and we’ve seen a couple of rabbits hopping about.  So there is plenty of time to relax and enjoy the rural surroundings, do a little stitching, continue reading my book, and nibble on a chocolate or two.  What could be more pleasant?

Camping in pleasant rural surroundings for a few days

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On the Road Again

Wishing all my followers a very Happy Christmas.  I do hope the day was just as you wished for.

We enjoyed a lovely relaxing day at home, and we shared it with two friends.  After family phone calls, the Weber BBQ was fired up, and a stuffed, rolled, turkey breast placed inside.  This was our first time using the “roast” function, but it worked perfectly, we are pleased to say.  The turkey came out moist inside, and nicely browned on the outside, just as we had hoped, and we enjoyed it with freshly dug new potatoes, steamed asparagus, fresh peas podded by Robin, (or should that be "shelled" perhaps?) and other assorted veggies.  And for dessert we had pavlova with mixed berries on top, plus a trifle.  All washed down with a glass of bubbly, so we were certainly well fed and watered.

Christmas Day with friends, under the sun umbrella

After a couple of days spent at Foxton, we plan to travel slowly up SH2 to Hawkes Bay.  Taking our time, and hopefully staying at a few out of the way places we had never been before.    We overnighted in Ashhurst, a lovely modest camp situated under huge old totara trees, and next door to a cemetery.  Some people wouldn’t enjoy camping in such close proximity, but as Robin says, the neighbours are very quiet!

Camping at Ashhurst

Coming along for the ride are my two embroidered Rudolf stockings, which always get brought as part of the caravan Christmas decorations.  I made one in a class several years ago, and thought it was so cute that I made a second one for Robin.  They are usually hung up either side of the bed over the reading light fittings.

Rudolf Stockings

Santa Bear always makes an appearance this time of year too.  He came dressed in a bright red jacket and hat, which I didn’t really like.  So I pulled it all apart to make a pattern, and made him a much nicer (in my view anyway) outfit in burgundy fabric to tone in with the caravan furnishings.

Santa Bear in his fur trimmed outfit

Just as we were leaving on our trip the other day, I received a parcel from my neighbour Dorothy.  She had kindly made me four small lace edged “food covers”, for the caravan, she said.  They will be very handy indeed – but I think I’ll keep two in the caravan, and use two at home
Gift from my neighbour

Hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas break.  I’ve been doing a little stitching, reading a book, and generally relaxing.  Do take care if you are travelling on the busy roads.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Busy in the Kitchen

The Big Day is practically here, and after a lot of rushing around, I’m pleased to say that I’m almost ready.  We planned most of our shopping for early in the week so that we didn’t have to venture out into the chaos on the last shopping day before Christmas.  So we’ve stocked up with fresh veggies and fruit, purchased our free range eggs, and went to the growers to buy some lovely fresh berries to decorate the top of the pavlova.

And not forgetting the baking.  I’ve made my Christmas Cake, only my second time of doing this, I must admit.  What took me so long, I wonder?  Home made definitely is best.  This morning I covered it first with rolled almond icing (we love that stuff!) then slathered it with butter icing flavoured with a little vanilla essence.

Christmas Cake is ready

I’ve made shortbread – but why, I ask myself, don’t I just leave the recipe the way it is?  I thought it was a bit moist, so added extra flour – then of course it all fell to pieces when I was trying to cut it out!  So then I had to add a little more soft butter.  Luckily it all worked out in the end, thank goodness.

And Christmas baking isn’t finished till I’ve made a batch of Chocolate Cherry Slice.  With a base of melted chocolate, and the topping chock full of glace cherries in a coconut topping, it really is divine.  I only make it for Christmas or extra special occasions, as it is so rich, but it really is delicious.

Chocolate Cherry Slice

Muffy is the only one in the household who hasn’t been bothered by the Christmas rush.  She often has quite restless nights now she is getting on in years, and wanders around the house calling out and disturbing our sleep.  But once we are awake in the mornings and she has done her job in getting us up and dressed, she then sleeps like a little angel.  I don’t have the heart to disturb her so have to wait a little later in the morning before I can get the bed made.

We can’t disturb the cat!

Tomorrow will be a fairly relaxed day.  We will have our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of croissants warmed in the oven, stuffed with ham off the bone and cheese slices.  There will be phone calls to make to the family mid morning.  And friends will be joining us for a BBQ lunch, so that will be great. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Trees and Carols

The “Avenue of Trees” returned to Levin after a break of a couple of years.  This year, businessman Harvey Bowler joined up with the Salvation Army to ensure that the popular event went ahead.  Businesses and organisations were invited to decorate a supplied tree, and 50 or so groups took up the challenge.  

Somewhere in the forest was the tree decorated by my quilt club.  And there it was,  “Handmade Fabric Art”, decorated by the Town and Country Quilters.

“Handmade Fabric Art” decorated by Town and Country Quilters

Nearby was a tree decorated by the Horowhenua Embroiderers Guild – some of our quilters belong to this group as well.  It was hung with all sorts of lovely hand made items.

“Embroidered Christmas Tree”, by Horowhenua Embroiderers Guild

There was such a happy angel on top of the tree decorated by the Levin Square and Round Dance Club.  Believe it or not - Robin and I did square dancing many years ago!  Although we didn’t enter competitions, we could allemande left, circle left or right, and square thru  with the best of them, all dressed up in our square dance finery.

Decorated by Levin Square and Round Dance Club 

There were trees decorated by our Vet practise, the local plumbing business, schools and kindergartens and a lovely Anzac themed tree covered with poppies and topped with an angel dressed in red from the Levin Home for War Veterans.

“Anzac”, decorated by Levin Home for War Veterans

With 50 trees or so to stop and admire, it took us quite some time to make our way around the hall.  We stopped at the Memorial Tree on the way out, wrote names on tags and hung them on the tree.  One for Robin’s Mum, and one for our next door neighbour who recently passed away.  Such a nice touch, we felt.  And we were kindly given a couple of packets of wild flower seeds, which will be planted in a pot sometime soon.

Then it was time for “Carols in the Car Park”.  Seats were set up and the crowds soon filled them, with lots of family groups arriving for an evening of Christmas Carols.  Song sheets were handed out and we sung along to all the old favourites, such as “Away in the Manger”, and “Silent Night”, to the music played by the Salvation Army Band. 



As well as enjoying the carols, we were entertained by several young performers.  Come and see them before they are famous, the programme said.  One young lad, aged 13, who had coloured his hair dark purple, had the most wonderful voice, and will be a heart throb to many young girls, I’m sure.  And this young lady, with her powerful voice, had me enthralled with her version of Leonard Cohen’s wonderful composition “Hallelujah”.


It was a wonderful pre-Christmas evening and so nice to see so many people joining in the fun.  Many thanks to the Salvation Army for organising the Christmas Carols, and providing hot drinks and home baked shortbread for the crowd.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

H is for Holly

With the Christmas rush carrying us along, there has not been too much stitching going on here.  But I did manage to complete another of my Christmas ABC blocks.  This one is the letter H and I changed it a bit to incorporate a holly tree.  Or, as I should say, my version of a holly tree, because I don’t think I’ve seen a real one.

I’ve missed out the letter G, because I had to go shopping for some suitable Perle thread to stitch my Gingerbread Man with.  Good old Ginger will be the next one off the production line – sooner or later.

H is for Holly

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finished just in time for Christmas

It’s always nice to stitch homemade gifts, especially when the recipient has actually asked for something.  I had a few leaf applique shapes left after completing a quilt for my daughter’s BIG 50th birthday back in August, (see quilt here) and when I mentioned this to her, she said she would like a cushion.  So cushions it was, for her Christmas gift.  I don’t know why I put off stitching them until last week, but they didn’t take to long to whip up, just as well.

Two cushions for my daughter

No sooner had the cushions been completed that I had a bit of a panic attack.  The gift I had ordered for elder grand-daughter Emma hadn’t arrived, and we were due to meet up with my daughter Nicky for lunch, and exchange gifts as we were not getting together on the big day.  What to do?  Emma lives and breaths “horses” and the last time we had met up she told me that if I wanted to make her another oven cloth to replace her well used one (the girls do a lot of baking) she would really like a new one with horses on it.  So horses it was.

I beavered away in the sewing room cutting and stitching, getting her present done just in time to get it wrapped and delivered with the other family gifts.  This is what I came up with:  an apron and a matching strip pieced double handed oven cloth, both covered in horses.

Apron and doubled handed oven cloth for Emma

The apron was an easy make, but what a mess I got in making the oven cloth.  I used sacking (burlap) on the back, and as I cut it roughly to size, then trimmed it more neatly, bits of the sacking unravelled and got everywhere.  But at last it was completed, wrapped up, and duly delivered.

And wouldn’t you know it, the missing parcel arrived the very next day!  Never mind, I’ll tuck it away somewhere safe, and use it for the next birthday.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Yarn Bombed Boulders

As one of life's slow knitters, I find it hard to understand while people would go to the time and trouble to "yarn bomb" various items.  But they do, and obviously enjoy it - bringing colour into an often drab world.  And not to mention a smile to people's faces.

The sign leading into Palmerston North

On a trip to Palmerston North the other day, we stopped to look at the city sign, and check out the round concrete boulders dotted around.  These look rather like the magical Moeraki Boulders from the South Island, and some of them have been clothed in knitted or crocheted covers.  According to the attached laminated labels, all the work of "Woolly Riot Palmy", it seems.

Two more colourful balls

So here they are, in all their glory, colourful woolly boulders welcoming visitors and locals alike to Palmerston North.  I'll just keep on with my slow knitting at home, working away on my own bit of creativeness on the knitting needles.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Present Swap for Christmas

Because we are not having Christmas with my daughter and her family this year, we met up for lunch and to swap presents.  Nicky works at The Herb Farm laboratory, nestled away in the hills behind Ashhurst.  The staff there were as busy as Santa's Elves as they were completing the orders. But she left them to carry on packing and labelling stock to enjoy lunch with the two of us in the adjacent Cafe.

Entrance to the Herb Farm 

Our meals were very tasty, as usual.  Nicky and I chose Chicken Open Sandwhich, while Robin enjoyed the rare Beef version.  After lunch we had the obligatory photo in the bright sunshine - with my daughter commenting that she didn't really want her photo on my blog.  Too bad, that's where it is going!

Nicky and her Mum

We took a big bag of pressies in, and came away with a box full, plus some lovely little plants which Nicky had potted up for me.  They were all carefully labelled, so I will know exactly what I have, and where to best plant them.

We came home with these

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Summer Gold

Talent abounds in our small town.  Embroiderers from Levin have produced a replica of a Gil Hanley photograph entitled Golden Summer.  Each embroider were given a photograph of a section and separately worked on their panel.  Working on their own piece of fabric, each didn’t know what piece of the photo the others were working on.  Each were free to choose their own threads and techniques.  It took about 18 months to complete the large piece, which was framed and called “Summer Gold”.  This has been on show recently at Te Takere Library, along with a copy of the original photograph.  Several of the ladies who took part are also members of my Quilt Guild.

Close up of one of the panels

The completed project

Monday, December 14, 2015

That's Better

Many thanks to Helen for sending me sending me a much better photo of the Sew Wot ladies at our Christmas Lunch last week.  The one I used on a previous blog post was so washed out as it was taken looking into the bright sunshine.  I've now  replaced it on said blog.  But as we all look so nice and happy, the photo deserves to be shown again!  So here we all are, looking lovely, even if I do say myself!

 Pam, Heather B, Helen, Heather E, Carol, Jenny, Moira, Rae and Mary
The Sew Wot Ladies

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ladies Probus Christmas Meeting

The Christmas meetings just seem to go on and on.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  After a Christmas BBQ with another group the previous day, it was then time for the final meeting of the year for the Levin Ladies Probus Club.  Our speaker was Debbie from the Levin AP&I Showgrounds, who told us about her interesting places of work before moving to Levin.  She is also a speech coach, and gave us tips for speaking clearer, with the emphasis on breathing, standing tall, clear diction.  She had us all standing up straight and practising several exercise phrases which she uses for her students! 

The Christmas Cake was then cut by one of our foundation members, before we enjoyed our tasty lunch.  Instead of our usual meeting seating at long tables, the round tables were nicely set up instead in groups of eight, making it a more cosy atmosphere.  With the addition of Christmas Crackers,chocolates, and a bowl of Punch, we could tell it was going to be a very festive meal indeed. 

And it was – we enjoyed hot ham, stuffed turkey roll, and plenty of hot vegetables.  Followed by Christmas Pudding and custard, mini pavlovas, and fruit salad.

Individual Christmas Puddings

It was a lovely meal, and although we probably didn’t really need that dessert, of course we ate it.  Jillian, Dot and I raised our glasses of non alcoholic Punch while one of our friendly table mates kindly took a photo for us.  This was our final Ladies Probus meeting for the year, and like most groups, we won’t get together again until next February.

Jillian, Dot and Jenny

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Town and Country Quilters December Club Night

The last Club Night of the year got off to a good start with extra invited guests, including those husbands brave enough to come and join in with a hall full of ladies.  There were ten raffles drawn, but sadly none of the numbers called out were a match for any of my tickets.  Never mind – I’ll try again next year.

Show and Tell got away with a very Christmassy item shown to start the ball rolling.  Poor old Dougal had lost his head and was feeling a rather “stuffed”.  Made by Lynne - isn’t he wonderful!

PC090010 Dougal the reindeer

Debi had brought along two New Zealand themed quilts started at Retreat a while ago.  They are not quite finished yet, but they are looking great. 

PC090012Debi’s NZ themed quilts

Marjorie had just completed a striking tessellated quilt in shades of black, white, grey and a touch of lime green.  The lime green in the border sets it off nicely.

PC090008Marjorie’s lovely quilt

Paula had brought along a very sophisticated curvy black Christmas Tree quilt.  Also curvy was her wonderful freehand quilting, and the black edging.  Very nice indeed!

PC090014Paula’s Christmas tree

The highlight of our evening was our speaker, former Beef Eater Patrick Nolan.  He has the honour of being the only non British ex soldier  ever to become part of this historic group of men who serve at the Tower of London.  He related the story of taking a trip through the Tower, listening to the guides, and thinking “this is for me!”.  Some years later his dream came true, and Patrick and wife Dawn sold up everything, packed a few cases, and travelled half way around the world to live and work in the Tower.

Patrick kept us entertained with stories of his training, the many daft questions which must be answered with a straight face, the difficulties of working around those often nasty ravens, and what it was like to actually live in the Tower.  I had heard him speak before, and he is  very entertaining indeed.

PC090021Patrick in his working uniform

He went on to show us the extras needed to dress up in the ceremonial uniform, such as the red stockings, rosettes, the finely pleated white neck ruff and his very special black hat.  The red uniform had been hand embroidered using gold thread, and cost a very pricey 13,000 pounds!  After 16 years on duty, Patrick and Dawn retired and came back home, taking his uniforms with him.

PC090004 The ceremonial dress uniform embroidered with gold thread

Members were asked to bring a plate for supper,and the tables were groaning with all sorts of home made delights.  Such as the wonderful meringues, and I did rather like those tasty cheese straws.   It wasn’t all about ourselves, we also brought along a food item each for the Food Bank.  The basket was full to the brim, so it will go to help those less fortunate than ourselves. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sew Wots Christmas Lunch

Today was the final Sew Wot get-together for the year and we had a nice lunch out at a local cafe to celebrate.  It was a full house, with the nine Sew Wot ladies turning up for our Christmas lunch, dressed up in our glad rags. Mary looked particularly charming in her blue patchwork skirt with a handkerchief hem.  This pretty flowing skirt was a gift from her daughter.


PC080057 Mary’s patchwork skirt

Then we got down to the serious business of choosing lunch from the menu – always a bit of a trial for me.  Procrastination is my middle name - what to have?  Pork Belly Open sandwich sounded just right, and others chose burgers, fish, and chicken.  The food was beautifully presented, and very tasty, and we were all pleased with our meals.

Our challenge for Christmas was to make a toilet bag for our nominated (secret) Sew Wot person, any colour, size, shape and fastening.  It should contain some appliqué or embroidery, and include a traditional block.  One by one the parcels were handed out and opened.  What a lovely array of styles, colours and shapes, all so pretty and functional too.  There were a few little surprises tucked away inside too.  Carol’s bag, made by Helen, was stuffed full of sweets and chocolates!  And Pam’s pretty striped Geisha Girl bag, stitched by Moira, came with a rather fetching pink shower cap.

PC080058 Pam with her toilet bag and shower cap

PC080060 Nine pretty toilet bags, all quite different

The gift giving didn’t stop there.  Heather B, with help from her grand-daughter Naomi, had made ever everyone a Christmas tree decoration, with our names spelt out in the beaded tail.  Aren’t they pretty!

PC080062 We each received one of these from Heather B

Then we asked one of the friendly staff to take our photo outside in the garden centre – sorry it is a little dark against the bright sunlight.  It was a lovely morning, and we all had a great time, eating, chatting, and swapping gifts.  Our regular two weekly stitching mornings now take a break and resume again in early February.

Nine happy Sew Wot ladies

Monday, December 7, 2015

A little shopping and a blog reader

There I was, concentrating on my shopping list as I moved around Spotlight in Palmy.  I had items on my list, such as a pair of knitting needles size 5.5mm.  Yes, I did have two in this size, but they were different lengths, so goodness knows where their partners ended up.  I’m slowly knitting myself a nice cosy woollen cardigan, and because the back and fronts were knitted all together, I used one of those new fangled (to me anyway) double ended needles with thin cord in the middle.  Don’t know what they are called but I’m sure the keen knitters out there could enlighten me.   I like to knit both sleeves at once, and wanted to go back to knitting needles for this part in the process.

PC050024I'm getting there slowly

What else?  Two cushion inners so that I can get on with the job of making my daughter two cushions for her Christmas gift.  And some brown felt and little black buttons to make the head of my Christmas yo-yo reindeer.  But  I can’t see him being completed in time for Christmas – not this year anyway.

PC050025 For my reindeer

As I was approaching the service counter, a customer being served said hello.  It was Joy, from Wanganui, an avid blog reader, and we had met once before.  She is not  just a quilty blog reader, she also reads Romany Rambler, our travel blog, and follows our travels as we tour around in our caravan.  Joy now has a “Bucket List” of places to visit, thanks to places we have visited with our caravan, and written about.  So “hello” back to you Joy, it was so nice to catch up with you, and know that the words and photos winging their way around cyberspace are read and appreciated.  Here is an earlier photo of Joy and her friend Judy, who introduced themselves to me at the Cotton On Quilt Show some months ago.

Joy and Judy at the Cotton On Quilt Show

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prairie Point Stars

Sometimes you see a certain something on the internet which jumps out and says “make me!”  This was certainly the case when I saw the Prairie Point Star Christmas ornaments stitched by the very talented Sue who writes the Super Mom – No Cape blog.  See her tutorial here. I just had to make one, or maybe two, they were so pretty.  Printing off the tutorial I settled down to read the instructions, then looked through my Christmas fabric stash to see what I would use.  I rather liked the effect of using just two fabrics,   so chose two lights and darks and got cutting, pressing and folding those little prairie points.  After I had stitched and stuffed the flat squashy base to stitch the points on to.  With all the preparation done, I took all the pieces along to my recent quilt club sewing day and sat and stitched those little points on, one after another.  That wasn’t too hard at all.

Then with the addition of ribbon and buttons, they were ready to hang, and best of all, in time for Christmas.  Many thanks to Sue for sharing her clear instructions.