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

Monday, February 27, 2023

We made it home

The last stop on our South Island Trip was Koromiko – where we started our trip back in mid December, all those weeks ago.  This is a beautiful place, surrounded by totara trees, and the cicadas were having a fine old time, making plenty of noise in the trees while looking for mates.  We were to stay here for two nights while we waited to board the Inter Island Ferry on Thursday.


Staying at Koromiko

It’s no secret that both ferry companies have been having maintenance problems.  We received a text telling us our trip the following day had been cancelled, costs would be refunded, and clients had to get on to the web site and rebook themselves.  We had heard of campers waiting several weeks before they could get another booking and cross Cook Strait. What to do?  We decided to drive down to the ferry office and front up to a real person.    The staff confirmed that our booking for the next day was cancelled, perhaps we would like to go on the standby list for a sailing later in the day?  No guarantees that we would get on board of course, but better than waiting weeks.

So back we went to Koromiko, hooked up the caravan and returned to the ferry terminal in the afternoon.  The sailing on the Kaiarahi was pushed back later and later, but at least we had the comfort of our caravan to rest, have a light meal, and a toilet on board, not that we really relaxed, wondering would we get onboard?  Eventually every one else had boarded and then it was the turn of the standby group.  Oh no, we were almost turned back at the last minute but that was overruled, and we were sent up a steep ramp and parked up.  We had made it!


.Finally boarded the Inter Island Ferry

Because we were one of the last vehicles to board, we had a little trouble finding a couple of seats together, but a kind couple moved along and made two seats available for us.  We settled down in the lounge and our sailing got underway at 11.00pm.  The captain made an announcement apologising for all the delays, and assuring us he had four engines all working – a reference to earlier problems when engines failed and the ships were drifting towards rocks!  Three hours later the announcement came to go to our cars, we had arrived in port.   We waited our turn, in this case last on certainly meant last off.  The rain was falling, the temperatures had dropped dramatically, welcome to Wellington.


We had made it to Wellington

We had decided to spend the night at Plimmerton NZMCA Park, and off we went, up the Ngauranga Gorge in heavy rain in the dead of night.  At 4.00am we pulled into the park, left the car looked up to the van, opened the caravan door and collapsed into bed.  It had been a long day, but we were so relieved to be back in the North Island.  We weren't quite ready to go home, so drove up to Foxton  for our caravan club rally.  It was great to catch up with our caravan club buddies after being way for so many weeks.  We finally made it home on Sunday.

Gemma was really good during our long trip away, except for waking us us bright and early, anywhere between 4.00am – 6.00am, insisting on going outside, no, she want allowed to!.  By the time she finally settled down, it was time for us to make an early morning cuppa, and check out the news of the day, especially after the cyclone hit the country.  She is fairly predictable, loves to snooze in my computer bag while I’m busy blogging.  And if the tiny wardrobe door is left afar, she is very keen tp pop inside and hide there for a while.


Snoozing in the caravan

Once home,  we had unpacked the caravan, done several loads of laundry, and then I just couldn't help myself.  It’s been such a long time since I had pottered around in my sewing room.  But, I told myself, before I do some real sewing, I needed to do a little mending.  My pair of summer shorts needed repair, and a dress I took away with me was a little loose around the neck.  I can’t abide necklines which slips off my shoulder, so I unpicked the back facing, adjusted the back neck seam, and restiched the facing.  There, that fits much better.  As a reward to myself, I found my remaining flag blocks (have already made a small quilt using girly coloured flags)  and started arranging the blocks, and pinning.  Maybe I’ll get stitching them tomorrow.  It’s good to be home again.


Flag blocks

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Where have we been lately?

We are heading back up the east coast of the South Island, making our slow way back to the Ferry Terminal.  Staying at Christchurch for a couple of days gave us the opportunity to catch up with son Michael again.  And I had so enjoyed our previous visit to Sign of the Kiwi Café on the Port Hills last time we were here, that we collected him from his home and went there for lunch.  It certainly was a long and winding drive up the road.  There were plenty of people there already there enjoying their lunches in the fresh air, and we ordered whatever took our fancy and found ourselves a table too.   Outside in the gardens seemed an ideal place for a few photos – “Oh, Mum, not again” said Michael, rolling his eyes.  But that’s what mothers do, don't they, take family photos when they can.


Michael and his Mum

While out and about we came across a large hollow metal ball – wonder what this is?  So we stopped to find out.  “Fanfare” was designed by Christchurch born  sculpture Neil Dawson and was suspended from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to mark New Year in 2005.  Then it was gifted by the City of Sydney to Christchurch City in 2007.  Fanfare is 20m in diameter, 24m high and weighs 25 tonnes, and is covered in 360 steel fans, each 1.5m in diameter and each one rotated by the wind.  It certainly is a mesmerizing sight.



With Cyclone Gabrielle wrecking havoc in the North Island, and not being sure if she would travel down south, we decided to stay in the Christchurch area for a few more days.  We moved from where we were staying as all those tall trees surrounding the property had me worrying if they would blow down on us in the strong winds.  So we moved 10km or so up the road to Kaiapoi.  The brand new  Kaiapoi NZMCA Park had just opened the previous day, so we were delighted to be one of the very early customers.  This new park is built on the substantial red zoned area, (previously a large subdivision)  from the massive 2011 Christchurch earthquake and all the badly damaged houses have been knocked down and removed. 

No more housing can be built on this red zoned land, so it is good that other low impact activities like sports fields and a large enclosed dog park are making use of the land.  Another great idea in this area  is the Food Forest, quite a large area built around many fruit trees.  Other items are planted in the gardens, I noticed many pumpkin plants spreading about and just starting to flower, and plenty of thorny berry bushes with not a single fruit on them.  I collected some apples and pears plus a few peaches from old mature trees to take back to the caravan.  All these trees would have been part of neighbouring home gardens before all the houses were destroyed in the earthquake.


I checked out the Food Forest

Kaiapoi was an important trading hub with the Maori people and the Kaiapoi River and surrounding waterways were used to transport pounamu (greenstone) from the Arahura River, and mutton-birds from Stewart Island.  These days the river is used by pleasure boats and cruise boats, including the Kaiapoi River Queen.  There was a trip scheduled in the weekend after we had departed.  So we will certainly have to return to this town and have a lunch or dinner cruise of the wonderful looking boat.


Doesn’t it look great

A couple of days later we drove up SH1 to Kaikoura.  Oh look – tunnels.  There are two sets of these tunnels, carved through the rock.  They may look tiny but plenty of large heavy trucks pass through them on a daily basis, so there was no problem that we would fit.


Two tunnels cut through the rock

Kaikoura township was buzzing with cars and campervans, the tourists had certainly come calling.  The car park at the Whale Watch encounter was packed with vehicles as the customers had climbed onboard the boats for a thrilling trip.  Down at the coastline the bleached white uplifted rocks from the big 2016 earthquake were ghostly white in the sunshine – all this coastline was originally under water.  There were several seals basking in the sun – some people walked over the rocks and got alarmingly close to them.


Seal basking in the sun

We finished off our sightseeing with an ice-cream.  Not a real ice-cream, the vendor was selling either Gelato or Sorbet.  We chose a gelato each and sat down in the sunshine trying to consume them before they melted in the sunshine and dripped all over our fingers.


Happy days

Then it was off to Blenheim.  Driving along the now repaired coastal highway, we reflected on how it was during our last trip to the South island when the road was still being repaired after the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake.  This tore through fault lines, demolishing houses, ripping up roads and railway lines and causing massive landslides.  Kaikoura was cut off and isolated.  1700 engineers and workers toiled for over a year before Kaikoura was finally reconnected.  Two years later on  our South Island trip in 2018 we remember how the road on the hill side was lined with long lines of containers to keep further rock fall at bay, so work was still ongoing then.  There was not a container in sight this time as we drove along. No wonder New Zealand is called “The Shaky Isles”.

Gemma wasn’t the only cat in camp in Blenheim, there were two others.  A white cat with black markings was nicely behaved on his harness and lead.  And the van next to us had a “catio”, I had only ever seen this before on an American quilting blog, so went to check it out.  The older tabby cat enjoying the fresh air in safely has only recently been caravanning and hated the harness and lead.  So the owners decided that the catio was a great idea for their cat, and made one themselves which hooks on to the side of their motorhome.  The cat is free to hop in and out of the motorhome through the window, and really enjoys his room with a view, I was told.


Cat in his catio

I’ve been doing a little stitching on a rainbow lately, but nothing really to show just yet.  I was really impressed when I asked Robin if he knew the colours of the rainbow, and he rattled them off, no trouble.  Although I had a general idea, I would have asked Mr Google to get it correct.  Luckily I have all the thread colours  my bag, so I’m stitching merrily away.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle and Royal Visits

A week on from Cyclone Gabrielle's arrival in New Zealand, there are still communities cut off and towns struggling for food, water and communications.  Auckland was hit hard, the wind and rain compounding problems wrought by the floods two weeks earlier - but the brunt of Gabrielle's power was felt mostly by the eastern North Island, in particular Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.  Roading, railway lines  and bridges are damaged, houses and farmland  have been flooded, cars washed away, landslides, power and internet  is still out to many thousands of households, and the pictures on the news are full of devastation.  Over 10,000 people have become homeless.  Because so many areas have been affected, all this will take an awful of resources and many months to start clearing up and rebuilding, it is just so heartbreaking to see.  On a personal note, we are safe and still  on holiday in the South Island, and our local area at home was not affected.

Aerial photographs reveal the extent of damage in storm-ravaged Wairoa. Photo / Hawke's Bay Civil Defence

Princess Anne has arrived in New Zealand for a short four day visit,  accompanied by her husband Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.  The Princess Royal arrived in Wellington on Wednesday and met with cyclone response staff at the National Crisis Management Centre.   Because the cyclone has caused so much damage to the country her plans have been affected.  Princess Anne is the Colonel in Chief of the NZ Army’s Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals and is visiting New Zealand to attend its centenary celebrations.

Princess Anne unveils a plaque at the Citizens' War Memorial in Christchurch. Photo / Christchurch City Council

Actually, Princess Anne isn’t the only royal visitor to arrive in New Zealand.  Prince Daniel and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden are also visiting the country.  A statement on the website of the Swedish embassy in Canberra said the couple are visiting this part of the world to promote and deepen Sweden’s bilateral relations with Australia and New Zealand. 

Prince Daniel and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden are set to visit Hamilton Gardens this weekend – they are part of a trade delegation to New Zealand.

There has certainly been such a lot going on over the last week, with the terrible cyclone taking centre stage, so much so that the two royal visits have not had a lot of publicity.  But I’ve had time to do some more work on the toddler jumper I’m knitting, and have now completed the back and the front - the front has a little rib button band neck opening.  Just the sleeves to go now.


Back and front completed

And another sunny afternoon spent on my Noah's Ark stitchery saw me working on two black and white Holstein cows.  One of them is happily  chewing on a buttercup.


Another block almost finished

Sunday, February 12, 2023

A Visit to Annie's

Isn't this such a lovely looking shop?  Heading back north, we stopped at Ashburton once again for an overnight stop.  We whizzed right past Annie's when we were heading south down the island, so I was determined to call in for a visit on our return trip.  And I wasn't disappointed.  Annie’s Country Quilt Store is based in a 100 year old pioneer cottage, and is chocker-block full of delights. 


Annie’s Country Quilt Store

I had forgotten about owner Rachel’s love of egg beaters, and there they are, still hanging up on a rail.


Rachel’s egg beater obsession


Plenty of goodies in this shop

There was such a lot to look at.  I checked out some patterns, looked at lots of lovely fabric, and purchased a couple of gifts, it’s always handy to get them done ahead of time.  Then two lots of fabric for me, I have projects in mind for these.


These two for future projects

My knitting is coming along well.  I’ve passed the armhole shaping on the back of my cardigan/jacket and now I’m about half way up the back yoke.  I’m really pleased with my progress as you may remember I unraveled the back a while ago as I had not cast on enough stitches and was knitting merrily away before I discovered the error.


Nearly finished the back

So how is the South Island  holiday going, you may be wondering?  We stopped of at Waimate, a lovely little town.  Did you know that there are wallabies in Waimate?  Wallabies were introduced from Australia and released for hunting purposes near Waimate in 1874. Fifty years later, they were recognized as a pest, responsible for destroying pasture, native regeneration, damaging fences and displacing stock. They may look cute, but they are an introduced species and are not welcome.


Waimate has unwanted wallabies

Another claim to fame in Waimate is their white horse high up on the hill.  Retired farmer Norman Hayman and his wife Betty spent three months to prepare the ground and lay 1220 concrete slabs, with a huge 2.5 ton precast head. This was  tribute to the hard working Clydesdale horses who worked  the farms.  On a trip to England, Robin and I spent some time checking out several of the UK’s famous white horses on the hills,  each one was quite unique.


The White Horse of Waimate

We stopped to admire the Silo Art back in town.  Waimate artist Bill Scott painted murals on grain silos at Transport Waimate’s Queen Street yard.  The silos were built by hand in 1920 and were the first of their kind in the country.  Hometown hero  WW11 soldier Eric Batchelor was twice awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous bravery when he served in Italy.  Beside him is Margaret Cruikshank, the first registered woman doctor in New Zealand.  She practiced in Waimate from 1897 until she fell victim to the 1918 influenza pandemic while treating patients.


Silo Art

The reason I was so keen to stop at Waimate was to visit one of the pubs in my “Great Kiwi Pub Crawl” book, and check out the sad story of Ted’s Bottle at the Waihao Forks Hotel. Ted d’Auvergne was having a farewell drink or two with his mates at the pub, waiting for the train to take him to Burnham Military Camp for training before heading off to war.  Ted heard the train coming, and left an unopened bottle of beer on the bar, calling to the publican to “save it until I get back”.  Ted served for two years in the Middle East, was transferred to Greece, and was killed in May 1941 in the Battle of Crete.  The publican saved Ted’s bottle of Ballins XXXX beer, and it is now stored in a case above the bar, engraved with Ted’s battalion insignia.  Each April on Anzac Day, another poppy is placed inside the case, and the locals drink to Ted and all his fallen comrades.  There is a statue of Ted outside the pub, showing him waiting with his kit bag at the station.


Ted’s Bottle at Waihao Forks Hotel

So that's what we have been getting up to the last few days.  We are cutting our holiday short by two weeks,  as Robin has a problem with  his leg and is up to his second lot of antibiotics.  You can imagine the stress we had trying to find a doctor while on holiday and traveling around.  I felt it was better to be cautious and head home a little earlier than we had planned, but  the earliest ferry booking we could get is in ten days time.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Presidential Highway and Dunedin

We went out exploring one afternoon, driving an oval shaped route from Gore and back through the countryside, a road we hadn’t previously traveled on.  And goodness me, on reaching Clinton we discovered this sign, we had just driven along the Presidential Highway!


This stretch of highway between Clinton and Gore acquired unexpected fame in the 1990s when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were respectively president and vice-president of the United States. When President Clinton visited New Zealand in 1999, a photograph of the road sign was presented to him by the United States ambassador, Josiah Beeman.

Clinton to Gore

Hello, Mr President

Tiny little Clinton has a sunflower oil business and we drove past many paddocks of happy yellow sunflowers, with their flowers growing brightly in the sun shine.


Blooming sunflowers

Our stop for the next two nights was Dunedin.  The main reason for our visit to this very Scottish city, was to spend time with my old school friend Merilyn and her husband Colin.  Dunedin was founded in 1848 by the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland.   The city has a rich  Scottish connection. It’s name comes from the Gaelic word for Edinburgh, and Thomas Burns, nephew to famous Scots poet Robert Burns, was among the early settlers.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon/evening with Colin and Merilyn at their home the day we arrived, and the following day they came and collected us to go out for lunch.  But first, they took us for a look around the Otago Settlers Museum.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I have Scots blood in my veins, from my Scottish grandfather.


Dunedin was founded by Scots emigrants


Fire Brigade carriage and early tram

I always enjoy finding textiles in museums, and this was an apron made from sacking, with applique and embroidery on the hem.  Sadly it was displayed above head height so didn't photograph at all well, but I’m sure you will get the general idea.  This is an example of a housewife turning a mundane heavy duty sacking apron into an attractive item.


Applique and embroidery on a sacking apron

There was also a display of early wedding gowns.  These two were worn by early settlers to the region, and would serve as “best dresses” later on, I’m sure. 


Early wedding gowns worn by Dunedin settlers

A roast lunch was next, and Colin and Merlyn took us to a local pub – what a popular place,  but luckily we managed to find a spare table.  The roast of the day was pork, so that’s what we all ordered, and very tasty it was too.


Me and Merilyn in the pub

Next we were taken for a drive up to the headland overlooking St Kilda Beach. We went and peered over the cliff edge at the pretty beach below.  But my goodness, it was blowing a gale, and we could hardly wait to get back inside the car.  That blew any cobwebs away!  Just as well that Robin took his cap off before he stepped outside, otherwise it could have been blown down to Antarctica!.


St Kilda Beach

We enjoyed a final coffee  together at the local garden centre to finish off our day.   Merilyn and Colin had grand-dog sitting duties to do over the weekend and had to hurry back home.  It was so nice to have such a great catch up with them both, hear all their news, enjoy a lovely meal in their beautiful home, and lunch out the following day.  Old friends are great friends indeed, and Merilyn and I go back to primary schooldays.


Colin and Robin

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Noah’s Ark Stitchery

Slowly but surely, my Noah’s  Ark stitcheries are coming along.  In between traveling and sightseeing I’ve enjoyed some stitching time outside in the warm weather.  Or I should say “hot”, as some of the afternoons have been very hot indeed.  Here is my latest little finish, two lions and two blue birds  waiting their turn to climb aboard the Ark.  I must say that they seem to be a pair of rather strange looking lions indeed.  But Noah chose them, so they must be OK.


Stitching outside in the afternoon

The lion block is the fourth one I have done.  Together with kangaroos, rabbits and the dove.



Noah’s Ark stitcheries so far

Our South Island holiday continues, and currently we are staying at Lake Manapouri which derives its name from a Maori word meaning “lake of the sorrowing heart,” with reference to a legend that its waters are the tears of dying sisters.  It is situated in the World Heritage Site Fiordland National Park, with fiords and lakes all carved out by ancient glaciers.


Lake Manapouri

We can certainly remember the uproar and the nationwide protests in the 1970s when a plan was proposed to raise the level of Lake Manapouri by 12m to provide more water storage for the Lake Manapouri Power Station.  Eventfully the idea was scrapped, and meanwhile John Hanlon’s song “Damn the Dam” became the rallying call to stop this happening. 

"Damn the dam cried the fantail,
  As he flew into as he flew into the sky,
  To give power to the people
  All this beauty has to die”…

Down at the lakeside is a monument showing just how high the water would have been raised if the plan had gone ahead.  You can see the lake in the distance.



Fellow campers had recommended The Church café/bistro in town, so we took ourselves there for Saturday lunch, and what a lovely place it was.   Originally Otautau St Andrews Anglican Church St Andrews, this lovely old building was re-sited at Manapouri and found a new purpose in life.  We were joined at our table by another caravanning couple, who, like us, didn't want to eat a meal perched up on bar stools.  At our age, a dining table and chairs suit us much better – oh dear, the joys of getting older.


Saturday Lunch at The Church