Thursday, March 31, 2011

On the Banks of Plum Creek

I took these photos of a random house while walking to some friends' house for dinner one Saturday evening the other weekend. I liked the colours of the flaking paint.

And the sky.

And the flowers out the front.

While in Christchurch I finished the third book in the Little House on the Prairie series, On the Banks of Plum Creek. I am loving this series, especially because I've got a bit of a system going where I read one 'adult' novel/non-fiction book, then one Little House book, to break it up a bit.

More action and events happen in On the Banks of Plum Creek than either of the previous books, for two reasons I think - one being that Laura and Mary are older and so have more independence and responsibility. Another being that they are living closer to a town/settlement so they get to go to school and church and meet other children and have more interaction with people outside their own family.

The tone/style of the book seemed slightly different from the previous two - there's more dialogue and more of something a bit harder to describe but what seems like energy, in the writing and in the progression of the plot. I had read that there has been debate about how much involvement Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose had in the writing and/or editing of the books and On the Banks of Plum Creek did make me wonder if this was one of the books in which Rose played a bigger role in the writing and that's why the tone or style seemed a bit different. But the tone/style difference isn't major and may simply be a reflection of the two points I noted above.

(I suddenly seem to be writing an essay. I think I miss studying English Literature.)

Something that has irritated me throughout has been the way Ma and Pa say each other's name almost every time they speak to each other - "'Tomorrow, we'll be settled again. The house is in a creek bank, Caroline.' 'Oh, Charles!' said Ma. 'A dugout. We've never had to live in a dugout yet.'"

"'I'm glad I had to carry them only three miles. Think of it, Caroline! Town's only three miles away! Just a nice walk....How do you like it, Caroline?'"

Also, Mary and Laura have such rigid characterisations - Mary is quiet, well-behaved, with perfect manners, and likes to stay indoors helping Ma and playing with Carrie. She gets scared easily and when she does she freezes up and can't move or speak. Laura is chatty, asks lots of questions, prefers to be outside with Pa, and pushes the boundries. Laura is always the one who acts in the face danger, no matter how scared she is.

I loved this line, "But Laura was glowing warm. She had never felt so fine and frisky. Mary said, 'I'm surprised at you, Laura. I wouldn't go out in the rain and get all wet like that.'"

It's such a Mary thing to say.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tiny hats

For the purposes of alliteration I wish I could say there were ten tiny hats at Monday night Knitting Circle, but alas there were only nine. Still, that's a lot of tiny hats!

They were on their way to the heads of premature babies and because of the style of hat, I kept imagining a whole lot of teeny tiny babies in rugby shorts and gumboots, stomping around a farm on a frosty morning wearing their solid ribbed hats pulled down over their ears and muttering.

(The yarn in the top right corner is a Punta Yarns Merisock Hand Painted and was being used to start a wee shawl/wrap called 'The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief', I know this because the person knitting with it is very good at keeping her Ravelry projects and stash up to date. She is also prolific (last year I posted a photo of some socks she was making the first time she came along on a Monday night) - she's doing an 11 shawls in 2011 challenge and has already completed three. Where do these people find the time?!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

For one night only...

Amazingly Quick and Easy Chocolate Brownie

200 grams butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa

Melt all of the above, add:

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs

Mix well, bake in tin for 25 minutes at 150 degrees celcius, or 20 minutes on fan bake. Especially yum served warm with vanilla ice cream...

Also, to record for posterity: on Friday night/in the early hours of Saturday morning, before my one night visit to Christchurch for my step-brother's 21st, while attempting to be suave and casual at Matterhorn, I walked into a glass door that I was adamant was open, despite having been told that it looked like it wasn't. My forehead is still sore today. There's something to be said for not keeping your windows/doors too clean. And for not trying to be suave and casual.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catching Up

So many things, so little time (although at 3pm on a week day it often seems like there's an intolerable amount of time). In brief:

On Saturday I finally got along to the City Gallery Wellington's 'Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction' exhibition (I took the photo above on my walk there, it was a beautiful day). I loved the Dorothy Thorpe range with its bauble handles (although I do wonder how practical the handles would be in terms of holding your cup of tea) and found the whare ashtray of the Wharetana range pretty offensive; while the lamp base with a Maori figurine carved into it which had an image of the Queen to commemorate her 1953 coronation stuck on its forehead was a pretty strange combination.

I had convinced my Mum and her friend to go along to the exhibition when she was in town a few weeks ago and she had said they enjoyed it (especially recognising pieces their mothers and even they themselves used to have) but it was pretty small so they weren't there long. I ended up spending an hour meandering along matching everything to the catalogue and watching the wee black and white National Film Archives' video 'From Potter's Wheel to Mass Production' so I guess it just depends on your level of interest. The exhibition has a $6 entry fee but you get a great little booklet to keep so it's well worth the price.

On Sunday Alex and I watched The Graduate for classic movie Sunday. It was so not what I had imagined. I had always thought Benjamin would be a suave, charming young man who, while ultimately seduced by Mrs. Robinson, would do his fair share of tempting her also. I did not expect him to be socially awkward, slightly disturbed, and generally strange. I actually couldn't get over it for much of the movie. I believe I said the words, 'Why is he so WEIRD?' many, many times.

Such a great movie though, Mrs. Robinson is a babe (apparently Anne Bancroft was actually only 35 at the time of filming, and Dustin Hoffman was a 30 year old playing a 21 year old - I KNEW he looked older than 21), the soundtrack is by Simon and Garfunkel, there's a strong late 1960s aesthetic in terms of the colours and the clothing, and it's also quite hilarious in certain parts. Toast popping up just as Ben has finished explaining to his parents (who are in the kitchen) that he's going to marry Elaine despite the fact that he hasn't discussed it with her and she in fact hates him was a favourite. Also it seems like the filmmaker had just discovered the revolutionary technique of zooming. There was a lot of it going on.

I'm not sure about the ending though. I couldn't really handle Elaine even considering having a relationship with Ben knowing that he'd had an affair with her mother (also, I had always thought the daughter married the guy without knowing he'd had an affair with her mother and the whole point of the movie was that it was very fraught with tension and secrets, so I got a big surprise when Ben rushed in and told Elaine the truth before Mrs. Robinson could get to her; where did I get all these assumptions about the movie from?), so although, as Alex pointed out, it was satisfying that Mrs. Robinson didn't 'win', I interpreted Elaine's expression at the very end, after they collapse into the back seat of the bus elated and are staring ahead, as one of sadness and uncertainty. Because while she hasn't let her mother win, she's also lost her relationship with her mother and her father and she's with a weird guy who, while he may be in love with her, has slept with her mother nonetheless. Anyway, I'd happily watch it again.

On Tuesday I went to a documentary about Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Last night I saw My Wedding and Other Secrets. SO CUTE. Almost too cute to bear at times. And there were some pretty emotional moments as well. A little insight into another culture in New Zealand and a movie that generally celebrates love.  I now really want to see the documentary the film was inspired by; although will I be able to cope with that much cuteness in a real life context? Honestly, the movie is that cute.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holland Road Yarn Company

On Sunday I finally had time to get out to Petone and visit Tash at her very own, very exciting new yarn shop - Holland Road Yarn Company.

In the past I have bemoaned the lack of an inviting, inspiring yarn shop in Wellington where everything is beautifully displayed (although The Yarn Studio at Nancy's does do a pretty good job of that) and there's space to hang out and do some knitting if you feel so inclined, so I had high hopes for HRYC. I was sure Tash wouldn't disappoint, however, and I was right. It is so cute and lovely and there are couches! It's only been open for a month (one month today in fact!) so it will surely only get better and better as time goes by.

Tash is such an inspiring example of someone who has found their passion and worked really hard to make a living out of it. And who could resist buying something from such a friendly face...

I couldn't.

This found its way home with me, I have plans to make it into a scarf for my sister. I am really looking forward to knitting with something so much thicker than the 4 ply of my first socks as this is worsted weight (which is 10 ply if I remember correctly). Having been knitting on stage in Tea for Toot with 8 ply and size 7 needles, I just know it's going to seem like I am making speed-of-light progress. Bring on the instant gratification!

And yes, I am still making slow progress on the second sock of the pair of my first socks, I managed to get to Monday night Knitting Circle last night for the first time in many weeks (I've started going to improvising workshops on a Monday night straight after work which means I don't get to knitting until well after 8pm if at all - the latter tended to be true as Auckland Fringe got closer as I got too tired, but last night we had no workshop so I was at knitting on time, a minor miracle) and there was a really good number of people there. Numbers had noticeably dropped off before and after Christmas but weirdly as the weather is turning, the numbers seem to be picking up. I feel like this happened last year as well. You'd think people would be less inclined to go out on a Monday night in winter but maybe they need more of a reason to get out of the house than in summer? Maybe rain and colder weather make people want to pick up their knitting again?

Who can understand the complex psyche of the knitter. I won't even pretend to.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Listening and watching

Last night I witnessed a ukelele virtuoso in action.

James Hill is amazing! Not only does he write and play great original songs, he can make a ukelele do things you wouldn't believe were possible...ukelele techno anyone? His 'Billie Jean' was a highlight (watch it, it's totally worth five minutes of your life). Also he is funny and a babe with a Canadian accent. Swoon.

So as if that wasn't enough, there was the added bonus of the Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra who are always so feel-good and fun. I've seen them twice before and every time I've loved it. They play such a wide variety of songs and they are clearly having the best time together. When James Hill joined them on stage for a few songs after their set it was like the ukelele dream team. 'Cry Me A River' was too good for words.

I was especially lucky because I got to go for freeeeee - the boyfriend of one of my flatmates was doing the lighting for the show so he got some comps. My K Road dress got an outing, so, all in all, an excellent night. I will definitely be investing in some James Hill albums (and the Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra said they have been doing some recording so there will be a new album sometime soon-ish which is very exciting!).

Another musical boyfriend of late is Aloe Blacc. I got introduced to him on the road trip up to Auckland for the show and I have listened to him pretty much every day for the past week. This clip of him singing one of his songs in what seems like a subway station is so cute.

Other things I've seen since I've been back in Wellington...An excellent play, The Idea of America. The best I've seen at BATS in ages. Such strong performances from everyone in the cast and some great writing. On  Thursday night I saw an interesting piece by Eko and their Southern Corridor Project, Crossing Lines, which explored a social dialogue between "people within the Maori, Somali and artistic communities of South Wellington". A scene in which the Maori characters and the Somali characters taunt each other about land and belonging was particularly powerful and I loved watching a scene performed entirely in Somali - I don't think I'd ever heard the Somali language spoken before; it was definitely an interesting experience sitting amongst Somali audience members who were laughing at what was being said and clearly enjoying it while I had absolutely no idea what was going on. A lovely Somali man, whom I spoke to a little bit more after the show, leaned over during the scene and explained that they were talking about how much sugar one of the characters wanted in his tea (five spoonfuls - apparently they like their tea very sweet in Somalia!). It must be pretty rare for the Somali community in Wellington to see themselves and their language on stage so I really hope the project contines/develops further.

Classic movie Sunday was back in full force last weekend. We watched Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which is freeeeaky.

It stars Bette Davis (whom I loved in All About Eve) as an ageing former child star 'caring' for her disabled sister and Joan Crawford (also pretty awesome) as the sister confined to a wheelchair and at the mercy of the increasingly unstable 'Baby Jane'. Like many classic movies, it's long. And it got pretty frustrating watching Baby Jane's awful manipulation of the helpless Blanche play out relatively slowly, but Bette Davis does an excellent job of making Baby Jane one of the most disturbing characters I've ever seen and there's a satisfying twist at the end.

We then went all out and watched Annie Hall. I'd never seen a Woody Allen film before so I'm glad my first was this one. Diane Keaton's Annie Hall is so endearing and from what I've read about the film and Allen and Keaton, it seems like they are playing versions of themselves (especially considering they did have a relationship in the 1970s and Diane Keaton's nickname is Annie and her original surname is Hall) which must be why they do it so well. I really enjoyed the film and Allen uses quite a lot of quirky techniques throughout (in one scene Annie and Alvy [Allen's character] are talking to each other about photography while what they're each actually thinking comes up as subtitles; in another a man is talking loudly about Marshall McLuhan [someone I'd never heard of but who was apparently a well-known media theorist] while waiting in line for tickets to a movie, Alvy steps out of the line and complains to the camera about how annoying the guy is and how he's wrong about McLuhan, the guy then steps out and defends himself, and finally the real Marshall McLuhan appears from behind a posterboard and tells the guy he actually is wrong).

Despite Allen's questionable personal moral choices, Annie Hall made me think I might like to see more of his movies as I especially liked that while Annie Hall is essentially a romantic comedy, it didn't have a typically happy ending.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Paper and bran

Until tonight I hadn't seen any footage of last week's earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. I had seen still images on Stuff and in the newspaper, but, while horrific, they're not the same as seeing those high rise buildings sway and that fast moving wall of water swallowing up land, houses, cars, trees, and people and carrying them along like toys. It's awful.

Once again I feel like the only thing I can do is donate to the cause and be grateful that I am currently safe and sound along with everyone else I know, both here and in Japan.

On Sunday I visited my friend Fiona who got married two weekends ago (I went to her Kitchen Fi Party last month). She and her partner had a ceremony at home surrounded by a very small number of their closest family and friends; then they all climbed aboard a green double decker bus and went for dinner at their favourite cafe in Lyall Bay. Looking at the photos and hearing Fiona and Bret talk about the wedding and the dinner it was clear that they had a very memorable day that really reflected what's most important to them. I had been to two of Fiona's dress fittings with her and provided some phone reassurance a few weeks before the wedding when she rang me worrying that she wasn't going to feel 'like a bride' or she would look silly because she was choosing to get married in a burgandy coloured dress; so seeing photos of her from the day was great - she looked beautiful of course and as radiant as any bride in a white meringue dress.

To decorate the house for the wedding, Fiona and Bret made 1000 origami cranes between them. They still had the wall of cranes when I visited - and as evidenced by these photos, it looks awesome! Fi had seen origami cranes used as decorations in various places (if I remember correctly, one of those places may have even been here) and when she looked into it she found out there is legendary significance in the folding of 1000 paper cranes, so she and Bret got folding!

They also had them on the table at the wedding dinner. Cute.

It was so nice to finally have a proper weekend at my new home without rehearsals or a million places to be and things to do. Being able to go grocery shopping properly for the first time in ages was ridiculously satisfying. As was being organised enough to make some bran and apple muffins for the week ahead. Last week I worked out that the walk from my house to work is 5km (I have been telling everyone this but it's because I still find it a bit hard to believe) so having just an apple for breakfast when I get to work every morning after walking 5km isn't quite enough - hence the muffins. I decided bran muffins seemed vaguely healthier than most other kinds of muffins. Whether that's actually true or not, I don't know.

Bran and Apple Muffins

1 cup bran flakes
1/2 cup milk
1 tblsp golden syrup

Soak all of the above for five minutes. Then add:

1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 apple (peeled, diced, and softened in boiling water for a few minutes)

Bake 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius (or until they look ready...that's my highly scientific method)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gems from K Road

While we didn't get out and about quite as much as I would have liked during our week in Auckland, we did venture into town to do some op shopping one day. We spent most of our time on K Road where I got a strange but awesome sleeveless wrap-around dress. Strange because it has these Chinese-style buttons/closures but the print and overall style of the dress aren't all that Chinese - well I don't think so anyway, but I'm hardly schooled in these matters.

I really love the print on the fabric, it makes me think of pohutakawas, even though the flowers are more of a pink-y red than a real pohutakawa flower. I especially love the dress because it's so unlike anything I already have in my wardrobe (this was one of the reasons I had to justify buying it to myself).

I also got this great 80s bright teal coloured handbag. It was hanging behind the counter, supposedly on hold for someone, but after a bit of consideration the woman decided she'd kept it on hold long enough and seeing as I was there, ready and willing, she'd sell it to me.

These old fashioned flouncy petticoats reminded me of one my Mum bought me when I was very young. It was very very full and flouncy and had pink flowers on it. She sewed some pink ribbon onto it as straps and I would dance around in my 'tutu' and think I looked pretty great. Which I did.

In St. Kevin's Arcade I popped into a shop with lots of china and intriguing retro bits and pieces, which turned out to be a very fortuitous stop. It had quite a bit of Crown Lynn 'lolly ware', including some tea cup and saucer sets in the plum colour glaze.

Just in case, I asked the woman behind the counter if she had any single plum saucers as I had a plum cup I'd 'rescued' from a beach holiday house many many years ago. It was in amongst all sorts of old odd tea cups and mugs, and, purely because I loved the colour, I decided it was too good to be wasting away at the back of a cupboard amongst far inferior and chipped ugly brown cups. At the time I didn't know it was Crown Lynn.

The woman said, 'Hmm, you're lucky, I do have one single saucer. But how generous am I feeling today? Because you know the plum colour glaze is quite rare and the cup and saucer set is $45...Okay, you can have it for $10 cash.'

After paying for the saucer I noticed that she had a poster for the City Gallery Wellington's Crown Lynn exhibition hanging on the wall so I said, 'I can't wait to see that Crown Lynn exhibition at the City Gallery, are you going down to it at all?' and she said, 'I've been! I went on opening night because the lolly ware in the exhibition is from my collection!' (The woman's name is Alison Reid, her shop is called Aunt Mavis, and there was an article about the exhibition in The New Zealand Herald recently that features her).

I was quite excited by this revelation, so we chatted about the exhibition and her collection (when she gets rich one day and owns a mansion she's going to have an entire display room, but at the moment all her Crown Lynn lolly ware is kept in a cabinet) and how I was up from Wellington because we had a show in the Auckland Fringe (she let us leave some flyers which I was conveniently carrying a stash of) and it was a very nice time. She wrapped my saucer in tissue paper and popped it into a brown paper bag to which she then stapled an illustration from an old children's picture book. So cute!

And when I got back to Wellington I was able to reunite my plum colour glaze cup with its plum colour glaze saucer.

Where it can now take pride of place on my tea display bookshelf:

Three out of the four other coloured cups it sits with are Crown Lynn and I'm pretty sure the fourth one is too, but it doesn't have a stamp on the bottom. All of the saucers they're sitting on have different little pictures on them (one has geese, one a maritime theme, another a farm scene, and the fourth a Parisian looking street with a woman in a pink dress leading a poodle past a cafe) and say 'Alfred Meakin England' on the bottom. So even though the colours of the cups and saucers go quite well together, they aren't actually a set. I got all the cups and saucers at my high school fair one year just because I liked them and they were being sold as a set, it wasn't until much later that I realised they weren't a proper matching set. I wonder what happened to the actual cups?

I love old stuff. So many things you just can't know about it.

(I am going to try to get to the Crown Lynn exhibition this coming weekend, I want to be able to have plenty of time there so I haven't had a chance yet. But soon, sooooon. Apparently the City Gallery is selling Crown Lynn socks as part of the exhibition merchandise. I might have to get some.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Auckland, I think I like you.

I have never really been a huge fan of Auckland - I always think of the wide grey dullness of Queen Street and the lack of CBD waterfront hang-out space and it's never very inspiring. But there are so many other great parts of Auckland I discover every time I go there that I might be changing my mind...

View of Rangitoto from the top of Mt. Hobson (the roof of Tara, the house we stayed in [that doesn't actually have a name but it should], is visible in the foreground framed by trees - Tara had a pretty good view of Rangitoto, but not quite as good as this!)

Pretty and slightly exotic looking church

My positive feelings towards Auckland were probably helped by the fact that we stayed in an amazing house with a pool and a bathroom in every bedroom.

There were lots of bricks around the house and many of them had the name of the company/where they were made inscribed in them. I also noticed the same thing on the bricks that made up the outdoor fireplace of a bar we went to. I found it a bit strange that all the bricks at the house and all the bricks at the bar didn't come from the same company/place though. Surely you'd get a whole load delivered from one place for whatever you were making?

K Road, especially St Kevin's Arcade, had lots of excellent things to offer. More about my K Road purchases in another post...

I liked this street art in Newmarket.

Of course I managed to find the French deli/cafe closest to where we were staying - Le P'tite Pyrenees; it is very cute and even sells the macaroons I have bought at the French Farmers Market in Parnell a number of times, both individually and in cute wee gift boxes.

The Remuera shops are very nice, like the Ponsonby shops only smaller and without The Women's Bookshop or The Children's Bookshop (both of which I manged to visit under the pretence of dropping off posters and flyers for the show; I was unable to resist making a purchase in The Women's Bookshop. I love that place. I got to have a chat with the woman behind the counter about Joy Cowley's memoir as she had also read it.)

On the way home the Desert Road was full of great colours - the usual browns and greys and dark greens, but with lots of purple heather thrown into the mix which made for a very nice contrast. It made me want to knit something brown and purple; although I think that colour combination could create a hideous 70s mess if you didn't get the shades exactly right.  

The Desert Road was also full of rain, which helped prepare us for our arrival home. It was so cold back in Wellington on Sunday night. I had to get my winter pyjamas out. IN EARLY MARCH.