Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cute as a button

So I decided to make a little pinafore as my next project at my sewing night class. I couldn't find a free pattern that I liked on the internet on Monday so I rushed into Arthur Toye ten minutes before they closed and furiously flicked through pattern books and bought this Butterick one. I thought I'd make 'C' (the pink dress) because it seemed pretty simple, although not such a fan of the ruffle but I'm guessing you wouldn't have to put it on.

Then today I emailed one of my sewing gurus asking if she thought I could make it reversible and mentioned that it wasn't quite what I had in mind but was still cute and she sent me the pattern for this pinafore which was exactly what I was looking for. Turns out I couldn't find it on the Burda Style website because it's called a 'toddler jumper'. A jumper is a jersey in my books. Americans.

Anyway, so at lunchtime I went out and bought fabric and the CUTEST buttons for a baby pinafore EVER. They are WOODEN. WOODEN BUTTONS. I don't think I can convey how much these buttons please me.

The navy blue fabric is for the outer and the cream with squiggles is for the inner. The pattern on the outer fabric makes me think Scandinavian. Why? I have no idea. As for the inner fabric, when I was buying it the shop assistant said, 'Oh this makes me think of little gingerbread men' and then as soon as she said that I saw ghosts and rabbits. I kind of wish they were still just squiggles.

Anyway, because the pattern was printed out on computer paper it needed sticking together before the pieces could be cut out. So I spent the whole of tonight's class doing that and then pinning the pieces to and cutting out the fabric. But when I start sewing it is going to be so quick and I'm going to get to learn how to do button holes!

(It's totally like being back at school, look at the tables and the stools!)

As you can see, when it came to pinning the pattern pieces to the fabric I realised I had bought twice as much fabric as I needed because while I got the right length, it was obviously way wider than was called for. So the next person to have a baby girl might be getting a matching pinafore to this one...

I can't wait to sew this, just the size of the pattern pieces and the cut-out fabric pieces had me exclaiming, 'Look how CUTE this is! It's so TINY!' every few minutes. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I just love small versions of things. Although today I had coffee with a very short woman from work and I felt bad for being so much taller than her and I'm not even tall. It was weird.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get your cook on

At the moment I have the house to myself and I am having such a good time. It's not that I dislike my flatmates or anything, I just really like being able to put music on as soon as I get up and sing as loud as I like and do a little dance around the lounge without anyone watching. I had great plans to finish the book I'm reading and do the heel turn on my sock and write a draft budget for taking our show elsewhere next year...but none of those things happened. This happened though:

I made Coconut Whispers from the beautiful book Ladies a Plate. Mine didn't look as perfect as the ones in the book but they tasted really really good. They're very quick to make too. I think next time I'll try having the oven just on 'bake' instead of 'fan bake' to try to get a more even all-over colour.

Alex, Ed and I went a bit crazy and had classic movie Sunday two weekends in a row. I especially bought a cheap wee DVD player for my TV so we could have it at my house and I even decided to make dinner for everyone (including Alex and Ed's respective partners). Making dinner for five people is probably not a big achievement for most people and sure, I've done it before for my family. But I don't think I've ever had more than one friend over for dinner at a time and made something from scratch (i.e. without the help of a 'Maggi Cook in the Pot' packet mix) so it was a bit fun for me. I had lofty ideas of making Julia Child's beef bourguignon but I didn't have all day or the right type of casserole dish that can be heated on the stove top as well as put in the oven. So I ended up making a beef and mushroom with red wine casserole from the good old Edmond's cookbook. It was delicious! It's made me realise that I don't have to be just a Maggi packet girl - although Maggi is indeed magic when you get home from work hungry and want something decent in not too much time. So I still stand by my Maggi love.

Last weekend for classic movie Sunday (which was actually a Saturday, but let's not quibble) we watched Singin' in the Rain which I have seen before but was happy to watch again. It's fun and frothy with amazing tap dancing and some excellent songs like 'All I Do Is Dream Of You', 'Make 'Em Laugh', and 'Good Morning'. My favourite quote was 'She's so refined, I think I'll kill myself.'

This afternoon we watched Key Largo. I had never heard of it before but when I asked for Citizen Kane at the video shop (are there even any videos left at 'video shops'? I don't know, but it seems wrong to call it 'the DVD shop'. Maybe this will be one of those things where we still call it 'the video shop' and our kids will be like, 'Muuuum, that's so old fashioned.' I hope so.) the man said they didn't have it but if I was looking for a classic he'd recommend this one. We decided to give it a go because it has Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in it. Overall, it was pretty funny; it's not meant to be, but some of the things they say are just so ridiculous. It's all very suspenseful with gangsters and a hurricane. Mostly I love the way Humphrey Bogart talks, so it was nice to see him again after Casablanca.

Friday, August 27, 2010

18 dates, 55 minutes...

So, on Thursday night I went speed dating. I wasn't overly enthused about the whole event for various reasons, but in the end peer pressure got me and I was like, what's the worst that can happen? I have a really awful time for a few hours. And I thought, even if that happens, surely I will get some good stories out of it (material for the comedy tour, if you will). Also, I went with my step-sister Claire so there was someone to laugh about it with afterwards if need be.

Turns out, while there was plenty to laugh about afterwards, it was actually quite a fun time! It was clear that nearly everyone was just there for a night out and something a bit different, although there were a few rather serious people, as I shall illustrate later. It was run by the Young Lawyers Committee but hardly anyone there was actually a lawyer (although everyone was relatively young, early to late twenties I'd say). It was only advertised through the committee's members so it was all kind of 'friends told friends who told friends and workmates' rather than posters all over town.

It was at Plum Cafe in town and there were 18 guys and 18 girls. When we arrived we each got a drink and a number (I was number 15, which I took to be a good sign, being my birth date and all) and there were nibbles doing the rounds (actually one of the best parts was the amazing food. I know, with me it's always the food). On the tables along one side of the cafe there were pens and cards on which you wrote your name and the number you had been given. The girls sat along the wall side of the tables and the guys in the chairs opposite as they were the ones who had to get up and move (I remarked to Claire that this was a bit old fashioned and sexist, but at the same time I appreciated getting to just sit there; so win some, lose some with the old feminism). Each 'round' was 3 minutes long and the MC gave a question at the start of each round to start everyone off. The first question was, 'David Bain, guilty or innocent?' I guess they started with a law theme...

The first half went so quickly and was really fun and quite amusing. The bell would go to signal the end of 3 minutes and you'd be like, 'What? That can't be 3 minutes!' and then it would start all over again. After the half time break, though, I got really tired and started to feel like a broken record as everyone asked pretty much the same questions at some stage during the 3 minutes: Where are you from? What did you study at uni? Where do you work? and frequently, but not all the time, have you done much travelling? It's pretty echo-y in Plum so you ended up having to lean right in to hear some people (the classic low talkers) and say 'pardon?' more than is desirable, and talk quite loudly over all the noise. But overall the evening went pretty quickly and I wrote down a couple of numbers on my card because I figured if I'd come along then I had to at least play the game. Before you left you handed your card into the MC who was taking them away to see if any numbers matched up. If you put someone's number down on your card and they put yours down on their card, the MC would email you that person's details and email that person your details. All very mysterious and suspenseful because everyone was very secretive about their cards...

Overall, most guys were pretty nice and easy to talk to and actually not too hideous looking. But of course, the best part of the evening was the few 'unique' people (otherwise known as the source of comedy gold):

The serious guy. He started the conversation with, 'I think this is a pretty efficient way of doing things you know? Like, we all know why we're here, we're all in the same boat, so it cuts out a lot of time wasting. Are you an organised person?'

The I'm-looking-for-a-wife guy. Included questions such as, 'Do you like living in the city? I don't think I could live in a small town again'; 'Do you want kids?'; 'Have you been travelling yet? When will you go? How long for?'.

The Russian guy. Sometimes, people just don't appreciate my attempts at humour:

Me: So you're obviously not from New Zealand, where are you from?

Him: (very deadpan, almost grumpy) Guess.

Me: Umm, Germany? Or somewhere near there?

Him: Russia.

Me: Well, that's close enough!

Him: (still very deadpan, still almost grumpy) Germany is like a thousand miles away from Russia.

Me: Well, it's closer than New Zealand...

Afterwards I said to Claire, 'Someone must have dragged that Russian guy along, he seems to be hating his life' and she said, 'Nope, he told me he came on his own.' Clearly he needs to work on his speed dating skills.

The earnest guy with very gelled hair. 'I work in IT but I really want to be a writer. I used to be a fat geek, but then I discovered Ceroc dancing. Do you dance?'

The high five guy. I didn't get any high fives but oh my, Claire did. She was sitting next to me so during her 3 minutes with this guy I pretty much lost it because I could hear their conversation and see him almost hovering on his chair due to his enthusiasm, which meant I didn't actually talk much to the person I was supposed to be, but oh well, he wasn't nearly as interesting. The high five guy was SO ENTHUSIASTIC about everything. I think he'd had quite a bit to drink. When Claire said she was from Palmerston North he replied, 'I went to Massey University there! I LOVE Palmerston North! High five!' and then when she said she grew up on a farm he cried, 'A FARM? I LOVE FARMS! High five!'.

Claire also made me laugh because at one point between rounds she leaned over to me and said, 'This is so weird, it's like I'm becoming a different personality with every guy I meet, like I was all 'Yeah!' with the high five guy and then I told some sporty guy I loved tramping. I haven't been tramping in about five years!'

All in all, it was a fun time. I would definitely recommend going speed dating if you have any inclination and don't take it too seriously. If nothing else, you will get some good stories out of it. I wouldn't want to go by myself because I'm not that brave, plus going with someone else means you can both compare notes and share stories about certain people afterwards. But even if you did go by yourself it would be fine because other people would be there alone and, the way it worked on this occasion anyway, the actual dating took up most of the time.

Was number 15 lucky for me? Well, I'm not one to speed date and tell...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So I was going to wait until I'd washed and ironed my newly completed bag, but I was so proud of it I couldn't wait that long. Behold:

I know it isn't the most complicated of projects, but I LOVE THE FABRIC COMBINATION SO MUCH. I especially love the lining which makes me think of the gardens at the Chateau de Versailles. Have I been there? No, but I've heard about them and seen photos so I'm thinking of the formality and symmetry and what they must look like from the sky. Anyway. My bag is a babe.

We had the 'real' teacher for the first time at the sewing night class last night and she said we're welcome to make a copy of the pattern for the bag (she designed it) because now we know how to make it it's a quick and easy project that can make a good present. She also said, 'So have you learned how to do buttonholes yet? Invisible zips?' and we were like, 'No...' So hopefully she's going to teach us a few things like that over the next 3 weeks because those are the kind of things I was hoping to learn. I need to decide what I want to make next as we still have 3 classes to go - I'm thinking I have another try at a skirt, or I try making a little pinnafore for the soon-to-be-born baby of one of the workers down on my Mum's farm. I won't make it baby-sized though, more like 1 year old or something. I don't know.

Something I could have added to my last post about favourite things is a new favourite thing I discovered last week. One of my former workmates (which sounds very formal but I don't think she'd appreciate me calling her one of my 'old' workmates) had a group of us over to her house last Thursday night to play a board game she recently bought online called 'Liebrary'. It was amazing!

The basic premise is: for each round someone is the librarian. The librarian rolls the die and takes a card from whichever genre section the die lands on (children's; classics; fiction/non-fiction; horror/mystery/sci-fi; romance). They read out the title of the book, the author, and a very brief plot summary from the card and then everyone has to write out what they think the first line of the book could be and give it to the librarian. The libarian writes out the real first line (given on the card) and then reads it out amongst the first lines everyone else has written. Everyone then has to guess which was the real first line and you get points if people choose your first line as the real line and points if you guess the correct first line. It's very much like Balderdash which is another game I love but haven't played for ages (even though I own it...I feel a Balderdash evening coming on).

There were six of us playing (in my former workmate's lovely lovely grown-up house with all nice furniture and art and generally pretty things and wine and cheese) and it was one of the best games I've ever played. Because we are all so clever and amazing, it was actually really hard to guess the real first line and people came up with some pretty amazing ones. The six of us could definitely have a career in first line writing. I really want to play it again!

Monday, August 23, 2010

When the storm bites, when the bee stings

When I'm feeling saaaaad; I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don't feeeeel, so baaaaad.

These are a few of my favourite things at the moment:

I just finished Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I discovered this book while doing some Wikipedia research on Gone With the Wind and Margaret Mitchell. The minute I finished it, sitting in Midland Park at lunchtime, I walked across the road to Borders and bought it. I didn't think they'd have a copy but they did and it's a beautiful hardcover with a design by Lois Mailou Jones who was apparently "among the most significant African-American artists of the twentieth century." Their Eyes Were Watching God is set in Florida in the early 20th Century and is essentially the story of one woman's life and her search for love and her place in the world. I loved it because Hurston creates such a strong sense of place and character. When reading it I had to get into a certain rhythm in my head because the dialogue is written with phonetic spelling of a lot of words: 'Ah'm born, but Ah ain't dead. No tellin' whut Ah'm liable tuh do yet.' Hurston's writing can also be beautifully lyrical, but above all, it's a really good story.

Interestingly, the covers of the two albums I'm listening to most at the moment have images of red headed women on them. I don't think this is coincidental.

I decided the other week I needed some new music to listen to as I don't think I can listen to some of my tried and true favourites for a while without getting overly emotional. Music can be very unhelpful like that. So while I'm metaphorically late to the musical party with Florence and the Machine, I'm glad I made the effort and turned up. I love Lungs. There are some good cathartic angry songs and some beautiful good-excuse-for-a-cry songs. And Camera Obscura are what I imagine all my new cool Scottish friends are going to be like when I go to Edinburgh next year (because yup, that's happening, one way or another...I hope). My step-sister gave me their latest album for my birthday because she thought I'd like them. She was right.

Hot chocolates from Pranah Cafe in Newtown. They also have amazing food. I got french toast there on Saturday morning and it came with so many different kinds of fruit - caramelised banana, poached pear, stewed rhubarb... I don't know why I hadn't been to Pranah before now, I've been to pretty much all the other cafes in Newtown; clearly I was saving the best for last.

- Japanese savoury pancakes. The ones my friend made when some of us went for dinner at her house had shrimp, bacon, ginger, shredded cabbage, spring onion and other goodness in them and then were covered in delicious Japanese mayonaise and some thick brown sauce - the label was in Japanese so I don't know what it's actually called but I know it's yum. Then these dried fish shavings were sprinkled on top. So good. I blame the pancakes for starting the consumption of wine that lead to extreme Sunday night Singstar and a Monday hangover. I think it's my first Monday hangover ever and it wasn't a fun time now that I have to get up at 6.30am. But it was worth it just for getting to witness a brother sister duo from Levin sing their hearts out to John Farnham while using the couch as a mini stage.

This is not one of my favourite things at the moment. I am so over this bag. That tiny pocket is so crooked and I just want the whole thing to be finished. I'll finish it at tomorrow's sewing nightclass. And then I'll wash and iron it and use it and like it. Or else.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sock it to me

On the Saturday evening that Tash and I arrived in New Plymouth last weekend, we were both so tired we bought a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, and sat in our cute little cabin drinking, eating, watching TV, and knitting the night away. It was so nice and I got to start the heel flap of my first sock which I then continued at Monday night Knitting Circle.

It's a whole lot of slip one, knit one on the right side and then slip one and purl the rest on the wrong side. Tash said this makes it stronger and more durable because the heel is where socks often get the most wear and tear. I believe her because she's a knitting super star, but it's still pretty slow going.

At Monday night Knitting Circle a nice new Canadian girl came along and finished the first of a pair of these socks from Knitty. She said she doesn't know how long it will be until she starts the second sock and I said it doesn't matter because this sock is so pretty she could just hang it on the wall and admire it as a piece of art. I had to use the flash on the camera because the lighting isn't very good in our little knitting corner, so the photo doesn't do justice to the true colour of the socks.

At the beginning of this week I also got some lovely mail. I love getting real mail just as much as I love sending it.

One letter was from my old flatmate Lauren who is currently away being a camp counsellor at Camp America. The letter came all the way from Westchester, New York (see the postmark!). The other letter was from Steph. After visiting her when I was down South at the beginning of the month, I sent her a book of short stories and a little card to say thanks for having me for afternoon tea. The afternoon I visited one of the many things we talked about was reading and finding the time for it, which is more of a legitimate problem for Steph than for me, as she has twin little boys. Steph said another mother she knew had recommended that she get back into reading through poems and short stories, so I thought Steph could do with a shiny new short story book to get her going. I got her Relief by Anna Taylor. Relief is Taylor's first book and it won the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award 2010. It's on my massive list of books to read. It was so nice to get a real live letter in the mail from Steph saying thank you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Govett-Brewster love

Reasons why I loved the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery when I spent the day there on Sunday:

1. Yin Xiuzhen's 'China in Four Seasons' work currently on exhibition (I probably broke rules taking these photos in the first place and now I'm probably breaking more putting them on here, but oh well, surely when you're being really nice about someone they can't tell you off...)

This is one of the portable suitcase cities. Each suitcase city had a streetscape recording from each real city (I'm pretty sure this one is Melbourne) playing from underneath it. I'm a sucker for all things made miniature/small so these little fabric skyscrapers made me really happy.

I heard Melanie from the gallery talking about how this work is a reaction to China's one child policy; because each family is only allowed one child the expectations placed upon that child and the love and warmth they recieve can be overwhelming, like being smothered by a thousand scarves.

2. This khata scarf that visitors to the gallery have been invited to knit a few rows on. It is 88 stitches across, 88 being the Chinese number of double happiness, luck, and good fortune (so I was told). There is a huge list of people from all around the world who have knitted a row or two in various different (some very complicated and beautiful) stitch patterns of their choice and the scarf now measures 8.6 meters long. It's going to be auctioned for charity this Saturday.

Tash and I knitting a row each - you can knit from both ends of the scarf

3. The exhibition currently on by Fiona Jack called 'Living Halls'. It's about New Zealand war memorial halls. It's fascinating to see how many tiny rural settlements built war memorial halls, many of which are no longer used and have fallen into disrepair. Fiona Jack invited people from around New Zealand to paint their local war memorial hall and there is a room full of paintings of halls.

Postcard from Fiona Jack: Living Halls exhibition. Photograph by Nigel Prickett

4. That the gallery's founding patron was Monica Brewster, who "envisaged a contemporary art museum of international standing that would offer a window to the world in the small coastal community of New Plymouth". Her maiden name was Govett and her married name Brewster.

5. That the gallery is "home to the Collection and Archive of pioneer filmmaker and kinetic artist Len Lye (1901–1980), one of New Zealand’s most ingenious and influential modern artists". I had heard of Len Lye but until I read about him at the gallery I had no idea how awesome he was. His idea of kinetic sculpture and movement as an art form is so beautiful: "One of my art teachers put me onto trying to find my own theory of art. After many early morning walks an idea hit me that seemed like a complete revelation. It was to compose motion, just as musicians compose sound. This idea was to lead me far, far away from...traditional art." It gives me a far greater appreciation of his Water Whirler on the waterfront here in Wellington.

All in all, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is an awesome place - there are many more reasons why I loved it but I won't go on and on. Basically, if you're ever in New Plymouth go to the Govett-Brewster. I would definitely love to go back.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Plymouth love

I had such a nice weekend. We stopped at second-hand shops on our way up to New Plymouth; who knew Eltham had so many great second-hand shops! One in particular had heaps of amazing hats.

We stayed in a super cute cabin at Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park.

This was our view. Our little self-contained, shiny new cabin was right on the edge of the park by the water.

Tash said we had to go to Pukekura Park. I thought the entrance looked a little bit old Hollywood with the palm tree.

There was a strange natural feature...also known as bubble mixture of some kind poured into a waterfall.

The park was really pretty. And we escaped the bad weather forecast for the North Island; it didn't rain on the way up, in New Plymouth, or on the way back - until we got to Wellington. Of course.

On Sunday morning we went and did some knit tagging on the main street of New Plymouth.

These message tags were given to Tash by someone she met while she was in Sydney. The two tags below are Tash's own handiwork.

We had an amazing breakfast at Cafe Govett-Brewster. Of course we took photos of our food.

Then everyone gathered to hear Melanie from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Tash talk about guerilla knitting and OutdoorKnit. Melanie explained that the guerilla knitting afternoon was in response to Yin Xiuzhen's 'China in Four Seasons' work currently being exhibited at the gallery. You can see a bit of the work hanging from the ceiling in the image below. She has used knitting, crochet, material and fibre to create her works (I was very naughty and took photos in an art gallery, I might post them tomorrow along with a rant about how much I loved the Govett-Brewster).

Everyone was then sent outside to decide what they'd like to tag and came back ready to knit their hearts out using a massive pile of donated novelty yarn and big knitting needles. Some people had come with works already in progress which they finished that afternoon...

The tag above was made by a man who came along with his wife and son. It was his first ever scarf but he decided he wanted to donate it as a tag.

As well as the parking meters out the front of the gallery, people attached a whole lot of leaves and flowers to a metal carpark gate and dotted them in trees and around the exterior of the gallery.

I made my very first tag ever - novelty yarn and big needles are awesome, you can make something vaguely substantial in such a short amount of time! I even got to practice moss stitch while making it, which was appropriate considering the colour.

I also made my second tag ever! Much smaller and fluffier.

Tash knitted a green pole cover and donated some of the leaves and flowers left over from 'It's a Tree!' at TheNewDowse.

I pointed out that the mushroom looked quite phallic...unintentional but amazing.

Other memorable moments from the trip - driving through Patea and seeing a barefoot woman riding bareback down the main street on a horse, she casually stopped outside someone's gate for a chat. Patea (home to the famed Patea Maori Club and the song Poi E - I was actually secretly really pleased to bear witness to the town) also had a scarily real meatworks display in one of the shop windows and is where I first got a glimpse of Mount Taranaki. That is one giant and beautiful mountain. I wish I'd gotten a photo but taking photos on a crappy camera while in a moving vehicle is not the easiest thing. It's so huge and amazing. I've seen it from the sky while in a plane but when you're on the ground you realise how big it is. Also Bulls has the most amazing kebabs. You learn something every day.