Monday, November 29, 2010

A time of giving(away)...

This is my 177th post. Not a neat round number but it will have to do.

My 177th post-i-versary. A good time to say thank you to all the people who read this blog, email me and comment on my ramblings.

I am a person who makes her New Year's resolutions in April and buys the calendar halfway through the year.  Well not next year.  Last week I purchased my calendar for 2011 a whole MONTH before 2010 runs out.

I went calendar shopping at Kikki-K and because I can't bottle and give away that supremely calm, organised air I breathe out when I leave that shop I thought you might like this.

Perfect for a blogger - it has room for all those websites, movies, books, shops you see and then promptly forget if you don't make a note of it.

And that goes with this...
For those in the southern hemisphere Christmas means summer, summer means the beach and the beachgoer needs just the right bag. Room enough for towels, cotton so it can get wet and sandy.  The northerners can put it away until the snow melts and they see sun again.

So if you'd like the book and the bag, the usual rules apply.

1. If you're a follower leave a comment and you're in.
2. If you're not, sign up and let me know with a comment that you have.
3. Blog about it, link to it, put it in your sidebar and let me know and you'll be entered again and again accordingly.
4. Anyone, anywhere can join in.
I'll draw the winner at the end of the weekend and let you know on Monday who's won.

For me 2010 has been all the better for blogging. So a big thank you for making it so.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday flowers...

Or more accurately, foliage for your door.
29 days 'til Christmas. And yes this is the requisite wreath blog post. I'm getting in early.
Love the traditional look but I think you need chilly weather - here where it's warm I like these.... 

These are the work of Sydney florist Saskia Havekes of Grandiflora - there's a video tutorial here.

If you need help with a traditional wreath then of course it's Martha you'd turn to - her instructions are here. And if you don't fancy the leafy look? 

Kind of cool, like Christmas. I'm looking forward to it.
Have a good weekend. x

First image found here, second and third from here, fourth and fifth here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


New Zealand feels quiet today. Flags at half mast, sombre voices on the radio and  tired, grey faces on the television.

Of course for most of us the day is just like yesterday. Getting the kids off to school, wading through a few loads of washing, worrying about the meeting you've done nothing to prepare for, buying Christmas gifts. Auckland city life is a million miles from the mine.

For those coasters, as the West coast community call themselves, it's a completely different sort of day. No miracle rescue, no jubilant scenes just shock and the sort of raw grief that makes you want to look away.

They're mourning for 29 men - their grandfathers, sons and brothers. A very sad day indeed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gardening inside and out...

Thank you for all your kind, sympathetic comments about my son's foray into indoor gardening.  What am I talking about?! You all LAUGHED.

Actually I did too but not while I was cleaning the floor and trying to get dirt out of the cracks. (some is there to stay)

Now to my outdoor garden. It's a work in progress so I took a stroll to get some inspiration and see what I should plant to replace my hedges. I found a lot of green. Green, green and more green. When did flowers go right out of style?

Luckily everyone's picked my favourite, the Iceberg rose. They look simply lovely lined up behind a white picket fence and the grey villas I like so much are a perfect backdrop. Icebergs are blousy and beautiful and wonderfully disheveled. We ordered Icebergs for my wedding flowers and the commercial ones looked nothing like they should - they were prim and perfect and quite overworked.
I loved these old-fashioned climbers peeking out from a less than perfect picket fence. The pale pink rose will probably go when the landscape designers move in.
So what did I learn from my garden tour? Green is good. Actually green is god. And lots of structural plants in rows at different heights with dark grey pots and edging. Crisp white paintwork and blousy white roses.

I came home and popped this Nicotiana or flowering tobacco plant in a pot.  I grew these in my London courtyard and they have a beautiful delicate scent in the evening.  Despite the name it is not the scent of smouldering Marlboro Lights.
Luckily hydrangeas are back in fashion - I read that somewhere this week but they're probably only talking about the white ones. I've just planted one in my new patch of soil where the hedge used to be. You know how I like to be dead on trend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A blogger's life...

Friends often ask me when I get time to blog. The truth is I probably don't have time to blog - I just do it when I should be working, cleaning or watching my children.

The 'watching my children' bit is what's causing problems.  A few weeks ago I was trying not to cry over spilt milk, yesterday I was having a delightful trawl through my picture file and fiddling online. I could hear my two year old playing happily down the hallway, making truck noises and banging his lego around. I only worry when I can't hear him. Mistake.
For trucks and diggers you need dirt and dirt is what he had.... what a busy, busy boy.
He didn't say much but I could tell he thought it was a fine idea. I have a nasty feeling he might try it again... on the carpet.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reading in 2011

It's less than five weeks to Christmas, and however many days until 2011... time to start planning next year's reading list.

I've found a very nice place to start - with my blog crush India Knight and her ultimate comfort reads. Her lovely list is here.

How could I not love a list that starts with Nancy Mitford and includes Agatha, Daphne Du Maurier, PG Wodehouse and Austen?  I'm not sure Jilly Cooper fits with my resolution to read better. I may leave her off in 2011.

I loved Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle and as a girl despite being THE worst dancer at Mrs Todd's Ballet School, anything by Noel Streatfield.

Jane at My Pear Tree House gave me food for thought last week (as she so often does when it comes to books and food) with her post about grand castles in literature. I'm adding Kate Morton to my list - she's not English but Australian but Jane assures me she does English very well.

So many of the authors I love are English, terribly English. So many of the books I love are set in a particular period in English life and in a particular class too it must be said... perhaps in a past life I lived somewhere like Chatsworth House.
Maybe I spent my teen years in that other life mooning about in a grand country home in a scratchy tweed skirt, gazing out over green rolling hills while dreaming about silk dresses and pining for love.

One day in my much talked about dream house in this life (with a laundry, dressing room and library) there will be a room crammed with comfort reads - a no boy zone.

In my past life it may have looked like the drawing room at the Duchess of Devonshire's new Vicarage.
As the Mitford sister who married very well,  Debo (now 90) has downsized from the beautiful Chatsworth House. There's a lovely interview with her here and another lively Mitford book to look forward to.

Ah well, this Villa Life might be a little drab in comparison but my family is at least sane and pretty happy. They are rarely sane or happy in the books I've loved.

I'll settle for a book corner like this perhaps. And a silk dress.

(Image 1 and 4 from here, 2 and 3 from here)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Door stalking...

Remember the copper door I showed you? I've been at it again - door stalking in our neighborhood. Lovely for me and infuriating and embarrassing for those walking with me.

I've always liked this etched front door. It looks very cool and retro and maybe is actually retro. Shameless as I am about taking photographs, I am a little too embarrassed to ask.

Normally you see glass etched with exotic birds, flowers or twiddly embroidery style patterns. This is pretty offbeat.

On reflection (no pun intended) I should have waited until they'd given it a wipe down with windex or vinegar or whatever you do with grubby windows but I could hardly knock on the door, camera in hand, and ask them to clean up their act for my blog... could I?!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An early Christmas gift...

Now this is for you mum...
I am known in our family for my quirky (and entirely lovable) approach to toast - barging past everyone to get the butter on before it goes cold. My mother, on the other hand, is famous for sneaking a peak at her Christmas presents... and everyone else's.

As our grandparents lived in South Africa and we lived in Australia our presents always arrived by post and then were snuck into a top cupboard until Christmas morning. They'd look untouched but we knew better and Mum would quite often give herself away with a telling 'I thought you'd like that...'  

So this year I'll print some of these lovely labels and stick them all over Mum's gift. The labels are an early Christmas present to everyone from the delightful and talented Janette at My Sweet Prints who along with her little helper, her own sweet prince, produces delightful art for your wall. Her blog is here. The free, ready-to-print labels are here. Than you so much Janette. 

Oh yes - and only six weeks to go, as my gym instructor keeps yelling at the spin class. It's as if he thinks I'm going to don a bikini on Christmas Day. 

As if. It would scare the children silly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

R is for Rrrred....

Couldn't you just eat this? Obviously not... but I do LOVE red and nothing is better than fire engine red. These engines are on display at Auckland's best destination for boys young and old - MOTAT - the Museum of Transport and Technology. We went a few months ago
This engine was built in 1937 and raced the streets of Waverley in the Taranaki region. 
 The one below was built in 1907, it's a Merryweather and is believed to be the second oldest surviving fire engine in the world - there's one in London that's three years older. This one was put to work in Sydney and eventually brought to NZ by a collector.
This next carriage was the earliest fire engine used in New Zealand, pulled by a horse with three firefighters balanced on top it needed another eleven men on each side to operate the water pump.  Hard to imagine but the Wellsford Fire Brigade was still using this in 1955.
I really would have liked to take one home and put it in my son's room. Obviously not the most practical idea so instead I found my fire engine in a can and yesterday started painting.
Resene Red Berry. A dollop of this in my boy's room should go rather well with this. Despite the best efforts of my two year old 'helper' I'm nearly done so I'll show you more in a couple of days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Guy Fawkes remembered...

This is a post that should be filled with wonderful photographs. It's not. I forgot to take my camera so just try and picture it in your head: Guy Fawkes night for an Australian who'd quite forgotten the joy of fireworks.

We went to a school fireworks display - first sugar, bouncing castles, face painting, sausages, cake stalls and hordes of children lost and found. When it got dark out came the glow sticks and sparklers. Helping my son with his sparkler I smelt my own childhood.

Fireworks came in May. I know it was May because I went to the local park with our neighbours for cracker night when my mother went off to hospital to have my brother. I was nine.

Perhaps the following year we went to family friends who lived in a big old mansion house with a gracious wooden verandah and huge front lawn. It was divided into flats for the medical staff at the hospital. A bunch of well paid, exuberant young doctors and fireworks? I remember the show going on and on and the next day combing the rambling garden for the paper parachutes that floated down with spent rockets.

I've just looked it up and apparently May 24 was Empire Day established in 1905 in far more patriotic times. We knew it as Cracker Night. Sky rockets, poh-hahs, Roman candles, Catherine wheels.

Fireworks are tightly controlled in Australia  - banned from sale or controlled by permit  in all but the far Northern Territory. They'll catch up and eventually ban them too I suppose.  I always thought that was a good idea and as the mother of two boys who will grow up to be foolhardy young men I should think that even more.

But big stylish expensive New Year's displays are not the same. After sitting with a couple of hundred families sighing in unison at the sight above and watching the smoke drift across the sky as the last spark went out, I felt sad the tradition's been lost.

In New Zealand they've limited the sale period to four days. A firework shopping frenzy. Apparently Wah Lee in the city is THE place to shop.  No doubt people set things on fire, burn themselves and scare cats and dogs into corners.

I only hope that nobody ignored the fire service warning.

"Read and understand the instructions before use.
Read them by torchlight, not a naked flame."

Good advice indeed...

By the way if your child is one that asks questions then go here - the image is from there too. A lot of their questions answered at the click of a mouse. I love the www.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Black and white...

Paint colours are never just black and white are they? The very thought of having to choose a new paint colour for the outside of our house fills me with dread. I'm not. But two of my friends are so this post is for them.

I have always loved this image from Skona Hem...
And then found this beautiful Kiwi version in NZ House and Garden. It just sits so well against green.
And it must have been a heart in the mouth moment when buying the paint for this villa. It's an awful lot of dark, dark paint. 
It's a look you don't see much on the lovely villas here and I don't think I would have had the confidence to do it but it works well. Most, like the ones I have shown you already, are white, taupe or grey. Or like ours, a combination taupe-grey. 
I found this in the real estate pages online.... It's rather a little Kiwi house but quite Scandinavian - perhaps they saw the top image too. 
I like it. It makes much more of what really could be a rather ordinary house if it was plain white or in the dreaded cream. 

What these pictures prove is that black or charcoal with touches of white really needs rather good architectural detail to work.

Good bones. Good shoulders perhaps. Rather like a sharp charcoal grey and white pin stripe suit on a fat City trader. Nothing worse.

(Image 4,5,6 found here)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brown thumbs and beautiful days...

Thank you for your kind concern about my blogging mojo. Maybe it's disappeared because the sun has been out in Auckland, it's wonderfully warm and I have been struck by a strange desire to garden. I am rolling with it and spent yesterday afternoon removing all those annoying little tops off the sprinkler system that were jammed with mould and dead earwigs. Poor things. Anyway, I got satisfyingly wet and muddy doing it.

There are now some new spring pots and also some herbs that I have left well alone. They seem to be thriving quite well without me. A month ago I shoved them in some old soil with no help or love at all and then went away for three weeks taking my brown thumbs with me. Result!
The trick is to put the mint in with other herbs just as you are advised NOT to. The mint is madly trying to take over and the others are fighting back. 

We have also made a decision about our hedges. When I say 'we' of course I mean I. I'm the only one in our family who's been losing sleep as one by one the unkillable- anything-grows-in-Auckland-hedge-plants curled up and died.
Despite taking advice from all the right people and spraying (and praying) I have lost five Corokia plants since we moved in - cause uncertain. The last straw was the one on the corner dying. 

I love our back hedges (which need a trim too) but the hedge dividing the garden has only ever looked good for one week in 52, the week we bought the house. 
It's potentially very stylish but it either needs trimming (like now) or has been trimmed too hard or is wonky.  It's too high and we rarely use the top lawn because you can't see it. Oh yes and there's that big gap on the corner!

So the middle hedge is going. Now I have to decide what to plant instead. I may take some professional advice... Perhaps a pretty green ground-coverish thing that will drape nicely down the grey brickwork.  Some flowers? Two round bush/tree sort of things either side of the steps? 

These are the vague questions I ask in in garden shops. I wave my arms around a bit too. 

So imagine me waving my arms around at you - any advice?


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