Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Getting Organised

Hello there! I make no apologies for using a similar photo to my previous header - this is such a beautiful bunch as is still going strong since last Wednesday. SO cheerful Hopefully it won't be long before there is some colour in the garden as well.

Now then. I'm a little late with the New Year Resolutions (not that I make any, usually!) but I feel the urge to make a statement of intention. I am going to get myself organised. Yes, you may laugh. I can be very organised. My problem is I find it difficult being organised in more than area of my life at a time. And while one area is sparkling and fresh and working well, the other areas are falling behind, becoming more and more tangled in their own miasma of disorganisation, eventually spilling out and spreading the chaos over everywhere else. Then I am back to being totally disorganised again. This needs taking in hand.

I have started making plans - oh I'm great at that! And I have begun tinkering with certain bits that needed attention urgently. But more is needed. I'd like it on record that I have made an attempt to kick the sewing room turmoil into touch:

OK, OK, so this is just my desk, but scroll back to my last post and see the state of it then! All my felt / wool is tidied away properly, and the Taupe Basket blocks which never came out of their box while I was in New Zealand! A long way to go I admit, but even this has made me feel better.

Now on the food front, I have been thinking for some time I need to get back to planning my menus and also wishing to be a bit more frugal with ingredients, not so wasteful with purchases, and cooking more from scratch. (which last, to be honest I mostly do.) So I intend to go through the freezers and make a list of what's in there, (yeah, you uber-organised people, some of us don't, you know!!) and try and use it up before buying anything else. Hmmm, we'll see. But I made a start. I had in  the freezer some smoked haddock which was bought as a bargain. In the fridge some smoked bacon, part of a clump bought cheap as 'cooking bacon' (what the heck else would you do with it??)and as I don't like smoked bacon on its own I  knew it wouldn't get used. Half each of a red and yellow pepper, couple of ribs of celery, two small red onions, a solitary courgette, a bunch of coriander which I forgot to use up the other day, and a couple of baking potatoes which wouldn't last much longer.

Spuds were flashed in the microwave then sliced thickly and reserved. All ingredients except fish were sautéed, fish chopped and gently cooked in milk in the oven. I added some flour to the veggies, stirred to cook, added the milk from the fish, with a spot more, and added some seasoning. Piled the mixture into a dish, dotted the chunks of fish through the sauce, and topped with the spuds. Into the oven to cook and crisp up. We had half for lunch and will finish it off tomorrow. It may not look like haute cuisine to you but it was pretty good!

In my search for inspiration in the field of frugality I have been regularly reading a blog called 'Frugal in Norfolk', and some weeks ago the blogger - who does not reveal her name - gave a recipe for faggots. Now I know they are not everyone's favourite food, but I rather like them, on a cold day. I'm sure amongst my many cookery books I must have a recipe, but this one was there in front of me  and I bookmarked it for further use. On Monday I made a batch of my own. Now I stupidly made them meatball size - they should be a bit bigger - but they tasted really good, with some lovely thick gravy. From a 300g pack each of pork shoulder and pork liver I got a fine meal for two and all this for the freezer:

Yes, the meat is eked out with homemade wholemeal breadcrumbs (from a time when I was obviously being 'organised ' on the food front!) and veggies such as onions, garlic, celery, a chunk of lonely chorizo, some of that cheap bacon (misshapes, they used to call it), and seasoning and herbs. But I think this is how we probably should be using meat. It made me feel pretty pleased with myself, I can tell you! (In fact I think there is enough in each pack to have some left overs. )

So, there it is. I am on a mission. However I don't want to make too big a thing of it because I will then fail at the first fence. Little by little. Gently does it.. Any tips or hints on the organisational front gratefully received! My next topic to get to grips with is my sewing projects. Hmmm. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Back to Earth

                         Some beautiful spring flowers from no. 1 son Mike and partner Vicki.

                          Promises of Spring.......    .........      ................

                           ..............      ...............      ready to spring forth!

                                 .............a terrible mess left in the sewing room following our return......

               .......but hints of plans in the creative pipe-line. Some wool purchased Down Under.

     See the direction in which my culinary thoughts are heading! I'm obviously on a health kick..

       And look who's come to visit for a couple of days! Meet Maddie, the Sharpei. Super-lovely girl.

A quick pictorial post today, getting myself back to normal, trying to pick up the threads of my everyday life - and finding it has taken longer than it did two years ago. Oh dear, a sign of the Ageing Process I fear! Catch up with you soon!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Stitching in the Antipodes

Phew! A post about stitching! At long last. So happy to be able to tell you that although my laptop is deceased, all my data was recovered from the hard drive and transferred to my new laptop. (and yes, I do realise how fortunate I am to be able to replace it, had this happened 10 years ago there would have been no chance of that.)

So be prepared for a long post and LOADS of stitchery photos. Here we go then.

On a drive up to Mangawhi, about an hour north of Orewa, we stopped off in Warkworth at The Apple Basket Patchwork Shop, which we had all noticed last time we were in NZ. It was such a pretty place and the owner was more than happy for me to take photographs.

                                             Krissie checking out the knitting patterns.

I bought some variegated perle threads, some wool felt, and a couple of fat quarters of New Zealand designed fabric. We all had a really good look around and chatted at length with the owner.

My third quilt shop find of the holiday was River Ranch Designs, which we found in the township of Te Kuiti, on a day out from our stay in Otorohanga. Te Kuiti is the 'sheep shearing capital of the world', and is real Kiwi heartland in the Waitomo district. We fortuitously strolled down a side street and came upon:

Owned by Sharon Bradley, who also runs classes and retreats at her River Ranch Studio, not far from the Waitomo Caves. One of her prize winning quilts hung on a wall, and has been featured in quilting magazines there and in Australia.

A close up, it was difficult to photograph as it was hung quite high up. One of the really nice things about finding this quilt shop was meeting Sharon's manager, Hilary Blamires, who I spotted straight away was from the 'old country'! Coincidence after coincidence emerged, as we discussed our careers, mine starting in the Queen Alexandra's Naval Nursing Service at Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, and her's in Occupation Therapy, at the same hospital but about twenty years later! Then her husband popped in and it transpired that he was ax- RN himself, as is my husband Jim. Hilary works part-time at the shop  as her own 'therapy' and lectures part-time in Hamilton. Fancy journeying all that way from home only to find people whose lives have run almost parallel to your own, albeit two decades or so later. It was lovely to meet you, Hilary, and I'm looking forward to using the felted wool I purchased!

The rest of my stitch-related photos were taken in Orewa. Beccie and I planned one of her applique cushions when she was here in the UK last summer. This is her favourite, comfy cushion.

She chose the fabric herself when we were in Devonport, Auckland. I bonded the shapes on and stab-stitched round them for speed. Had I had more time I'd have done needle-turn appliqué, but we are both happy with the results. There was sufficient fabric left over so I made another cushion cover for her; all hand-stitched as there wasn't a machine available.

The urgent stitching job that was waiting for me when we got there was the repair to Dylan's quilt. This has been so well-loved and used by the whole family - it has such a lovely feel to it I was tempted to steal it away home! Just a few places where the motifs had lifted, and a couple of holes worn into the fabric.

The repair is the circle in the centre of the cross, there was a small hole. It hardly looks like a repair, does it?

Just some shots of the quilt blocks. I think there must be hundreds of versions of this quilt, world wide, it's a very popular pattern, one of Jan Patek's, I think.

And the other item I worked on during our Down Under holiday, was my top hat topper, mark 2! This time made totally from black wool, with a mixture of felt, wool felt and felted wool for the motifs. I really enjoy working with these materials, and am planning some cushions in the near future.

So there you have it, I hope you are all still awake!! But I had to prove to you that I DID do some textile related activity during the four weeks we were away! We had the most wonderful time, being with the family, meeting some lovely people, and seeing some wonderful sights. We have already been making plans with Kit and Krissie for our next visit in 2015.

We have just about re-acclimatised ourselves to UK weather, and are beginning to enjoy the good things about living here, driving through rural Norfolk, being in touch with our UK family members, and catching up with our lovely friends. And tonight I shall be off to two of those friends to indulge in a few hours of MUSIC MAKING!!! Oh I have missed it so much. Next time I should have some exciting news on the Melodeon front, but for now, hope you've enjoyed the photos, and I am enjoying catching up with all the blog-posts I've got out of touch with. Catch you later!!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Home Again - Pictureless!

Dear Bloggy Friends,

sorry but this will be a pictureless post as I have had a disaster with my lap-top: small boy + beaker of water + close-by laptop = disaster on large scale. Using Jim's at the moment which drives me mad! Also no photos so will have to wait til problems are sorted. Visit to Norwich tomorrow to Apple shop!

Arrived back home yesterday at 4pm FREEZING COLD! Even today we are noticing how chilled everywhere is - and not in a cool, groovy kinda way, either! Unpacked, fish and chips for tea, I was in bed asleep by 1830 and slept the clock round. Now feeling I could do with another 12 hours, it's just 1735 as I type!

We have had an exquisite time, lots of laughs, wonderful scenery, great people met, and great times spent with Kit and the family. WONDERFUL WEATHER, the best we have had on our three trips to New Zealand. I hope to be able to retrieve the last photos to show you......I really DID do some stitching while we were there! Bear with me, I'm just so relieved that I can still access my blog and facebook!

And thankyou to the many of you who read and commented on my Down Under posts, I know they were very self indulgent, but you seemed to enjoy the trip. Hopefully I can have a really good post up for you to read soon, and I need to catch up with all of your blogs too.......some things just get pushed down the list of priorities, don't they?

Til next time then, hoping this posts!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Orewa to Otorohanga

                                                                       Redwood Lodge

So, off down south to a town called Otorohanga, south of Hamilton, in the Waikata area. Otorohanga is in what they call King Country, which is Kiwi heartland, sheep raising and farming country. We stayed in a B&B called Redwood Lodge, run by a delightful young couple called Julie and Donovan, who work so incredibly hard to make their dream come true.

From there we had days out to various places, coming home to a great home-cooked meal - Julie is a trained chef - and great conversations with the other guests. For four evenings we had the company of Sir Michael and Lady Mary  Hardie Boys. (yes, that is their true name!) he an ex Governor General of New Zealand. What a lovely couple and so unstuffy, and full of great stories; we put the world to rights and kept each other amused, along with some other really lovely guests, from France, America, Canada, The Netherlands and...Sheffield!

                     Haka taking place at the Maori Festival, or Kai, at the fishing village of Kowhia. This is where the first canoe-loads of Maori's arrived when they first came to New Zealand. We were lucky to manage to visit on the one day a year this takes place. Singing, dancing, and eating are the main activities! It was a lovely sunny day and we enjoyed the very picturesque drive to get there.

                 The women with their 'poi', which they twirl and swing in rhythm with their song.

On the hottest day we decided to take the Cave Tours, at Waitomo, so we were in the lovely cool! We went into three cave systems, with incredible limestone formations and of course the stalagmites and stalactites. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph the very best views, either because it wasn't permitted, or no flash, and as it was pitch black I could never sort my flash on/off in time! But Jim has some good video footage.

                                                     It was dark in them thar hills!

Our final visit was to the Glow Worm caves, which were incredible, but again my camera could not capture their beauty. We finished with a boat-trip through an underground river. The boat was a very basic tin model which rocked alarmingly, and the tunnel was pitch black. Our guide stood on the prow of the boat and guided us through by pulling on a system of wires looping across the tunnel roof. Everyone was silent, and it was quite magical. There were very large eels in the water, and one plopped up at the side of the boat.....all in the silence. Was it my imagination, or did I hear someone muttering "my preciousssssssssssssssssss!"

                    Our Maori guide in the glowworm caves. Sadly, his name was Steven.

I have some more photos of our time in Otorohanga which I need to upload and write a post for, then I promise you I have some STITCHERY photos and news! We are now back at Kit and Krisssies, enjoying a last few days before our return to the UK. I read this morning that snow has returned especially to Scotland the east coast of England, that'll be us, then! Deep joy!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Cheese and Honey

We headed up to the cheese shop, and had lunch outdoors, it was a beautiful setting. Earlier we had visited the Honey Centre, where we had to de-sensitise Krissie and Dylan before they could even look at the bee colonies through the glass!

Fraser checking out the ducks!

On the way home we popped into a Farmers' Market, where we just missed a Bluegrass Band playing. I got chatting to them as they were packing up, and this is the closest I've been to a musical instrument since leaving home!

                                Walking home from the shops.....it's a hard life, y'know!

The cheese board ready for supper. The honey-based mead was lovely, and I don't usually like mead, too sweet and medicinal-tasting!

I've had a bit of a job trying to upload photographs to facebook while away down at Otorohanga, where Jim and I spent five days exploring a bit more of NZ. And it hasn't been easy doing this blog-post either, so I will make it short and post again when we get back to Orewa tomorrow.