21 December 2013

Season's greetings

At last, school holidays are here. We can unwind and do all the things for which summer was intended - swim, go to the beach, play outside and enjoy the last of the evening sun after dinner. There are no schedules, no lunchboxes to fill, no homework. Six weeks to just live and be.

My family and I are looking forward to spending the summer with family and friends; I hope that you also get to spend some time this holiday season surrounded by those who matter most to you. 
This will be my last blog post for the year, so I just want to welcome my new followers and thank you all for being so generous with your time and leaving lovely, supportive comments. That is more than enough for me, so imagine my surprise when I received some lovely Christmas mail from fellow blogging friends over the past week. You know who you are. My daughters were in total awe that people I have never met would send us cards and gifts. My husband just doesn't understand it at all. But you know and I know. We get it.

I've never been huge on sending Christmas cards (or birthday cards). Sorry. As I taped these cards to the wall in our lounge, I thought of each person who had taken some time to let me know that I mattered enough to them to be sent a card and so I made a promise to myself to do better next year.

Happy holidays, my lovely Moonies. See you in 2014.

19 December 2013

I am {dande}lion, hear me velour

If you have followed me across from my Year of Crafting Dangerously days, you will know that I have a blog crush on Lisa at Big Little. Her children's garments are full of whimsy and wonder and everything is so beautifully detailed. Having really enjoyed testing her cape pattern a while ago, I was quite excited to then be asked to test one of her embroidery patterns. This project is only my second attempt ever at embroidering, as you can probably tell from the uneven stitches and rather unothodox lean of the dandelion stalk in the photograph below.

I had already taught myself how to do a basic straight stitch and back stitch, but this particular dandelion pattern has a chain stitch too. It was a little challenging to get the foundation stitch right, but after watching a couple of videos on Youtube, I picked it up and it only took a few minutes to complete the stems.

I sewed this coat using another of Lisa's patterns, the dandelion coat. Had I more sewing experience, I would have known to steer well clear of the quilted silk-blend that frayed almost as soon as it was cut and gone for something less temperamental, like wool (as the pattern suggested). Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I will learn from my mistakes.

The colour of the quilted fabric is a very pale pink, although it looks almost white in these images.
Because the exterior fabric was relatively delicate, I ironed some interfacing onto the reverse side to reinforce it and I am so pleased I did otherwise there would have been pulled threads and runs all up and down the front panels.  The coat is lined with some sage-coloured velour, which gives it quite a soft and snuggly feel and it fastens with hidden domes.

The dandelions were really enjoyable to embroider and satisfyingly quick to make. Lisa's instructions are very clear so I have no doubt that anyone who has never embroidered before would easily be able to attempt this pattern.
If you would like to purchase the dandelion embroidery or coat pattern, both are available in Lisa's Etsy store.  I also spied a cute dandelion baby shoe pattern in her shop too. If you love hand-embroidered garments but sewing or embroidery is not your bag, a ready-made dandelion coat is also available, waiting to be shipped. If you are anything like me, you will love all of Lisa's garments, they really are heaven-sent.

This post was not sponsored in any way, I simply love to support creative people whose work I truly love and believe in.

I'm joining in with Show and Tell at Sunshine x 3 this week.

14 December 2013

The one where I disappoint 571 people

I'm sorry.

The winner of the Lizzy House Red Letter Day bundle has been selected. Somewhere in New Zealand is a very happy Scottish woman. Och aye, Tartankiwi, it is you. Please get in touch to let me know your postal address.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered, it's been a busy few days trying to keep up with the email messages, but I have loved interacting with so many of you. I did not have much time to enter many giveaways myself but I did manage to discover one or two beautiful blogs along the way and I hope you did too. Maybe you were one of the lucky few to even pick up a prize elsewhere? If not, there's only a few months to wait until the next Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day.

12 December 2013

The Summer Christmas Company - and my first market

Right peeply-deeplers, it's been a while since I showed what I've been up to lately on the creative front. I have always wondered what it would be like to make things to sell, but never had the courage to try it. Until recently. A friend of mine has launched a new business called the Summer Christmas Company. There are a range of non-traditional festive decorations and wares that evoke the fun and frivolity of summer as opposed to the more typical Northern Hemisphere winter wonderland Christmas scenes. Her simple, stylised decorations are a direct influence of native New Zealand flora and fauna.  Here are a couple of my absolute favourites:

Pohutukawa wreath, anyone?
These lightweight plywood decorations, sold in packs of three or half a dozen, could be strung together as a garland or individually hung on a tree and would make great gifts to send to loved ones overseas as a reminder of home.
I have known Mela for years, she is an absolute dynamo and she has designed all of these decorations herself. There are both plywood and acrylic options and she also sells plywood Christmas trees, and an acrylic LED version. Everything, right down to the packaging, is made right here in the A of the tearoa. I know this sounds like a sponsored post, it's not, I just really want to support her novel idea.

Quite unexpectedly, she asked me to help make some items to complement her fledgling business and with it being summer market season, my kitchen table went into serious production mode over the last few weeks. I gave away small glimpses of my makings on Instagram. She asked me to sew some Christmas stockings and bunting and I made some Santa sacks too, which was a nod to my own childhood when we would place a pillowcase at the end of our bed. Some of the products are in soft, muted tones with a bit of a Kiwiana feel, and most items were made using fun, bright prints rather than traditional Christmas colours and I hoped that this would be their point of difference.

Having never made things to sell before, it was really hard to know if there was even a market for these items, but I guess the only way of knowing was to put them out there and see what happened. What did happen? I shared the stall with Mela and while she made a couple of sales, I sold nothing. Zip. Zilcho. Nada. Niente. Unless you count Mela's lovely friend and her sister who bought a couple of bags and a stocking respectively a day or two after the market - and for the sake of my confidence, I am totally counting them. Ha!
So, now that the worst thing that could happen has happened, I'm feeling buoyant, and would love to try another market. Obviously, I am not planning to sell Christmas stockings in January, because that would be stupid. Unless any Russians want them? Did that last bit make me sound quite ignorant? I'm kidding, we all know the Russian children leave out their empty vodka bottles. Now I'm really going to burn in hell.

On the whole, my first market experience has steeled me for the customers who have no filter at all and quite happily stand across from me and tell their friend that they could make it themselves for much less (that didn't actually happen, my overactive imagination ran through a few of these pre-market scenarios). The old me (the 2 weeks ago old me) would have cried into my bunting and then felt a strong urge to punch someone in the face, which would not work very well for repeat business. The new post-market me has fallen in love with the vibe of the market experience and being around enthusiastic and positive artisans. I did get the sense that many, if not all of the buyers who came through the market, were looking for bargains (as in let's haggle the price down to zero profit margin for the seller), but that is probably a whole other blog post.

09 December 2013

{GIVEAWAY}: Lizzy House Red Letter Day

My children are tired, cranky and emotional and I could have buried all three of them at the bottom of the garden the other day when our simple activity of decorating the Christmas tree regressed to a total whinge-fest. I just feel sorry for the tree. It has a CD hanging from it for a decoration. Our next door neighbour's finely decorated tree taps on the window when it thinks we're not looking and laughs at our one. I have a gathering of 18 children descending upon my door tomorrow afternoon for an end-of-season sports team celebration and I bet it rains so we are all stuck inside eating burnt rice bubble cake off each others' laps and I haven't even started my Christmas shopping. So, burglars, don't get any ideas and raid our house because all you'll get under our tree is some paper baubles with hand-drawn smiley faces on them. Let's just cancel Christmas and have a fabric giveaway instead? Are you with me?
Twice a year, Sew Mama Sew holds a Giveaway Day which runs for almost a week and you serial giveaway enterers can enter every single one from bloggers all over the world. Or you could be selective, and just enter the good ones. Like mine. Just joking. But not really. It is actually quite good. Look:
Yes, I know. 15 fat quarters of Lizzy House Red Letter Day fabrics. Whaat?

Wait a minute. Haven't you seen this giveaway before? Why, yes. Yes you have. I gave away the same bundle over six months ago on my old blog, and enjoyed the experience so much, I have decided to give up the other bundle. As Lizzy House fans know, these fabrics are out of print and very hard to find. Don't worry, my children haven't made me go completely crazy, I do still have enough left for moi, but I love to give and just know this will be a nice Christmas present for a fellow Lizzy House LOOOOVERRRR.

Just let me know where you're from. That's it. There is no requirement to sign up to my blog, but if you would like to, new followers are always welcome and as an added bonus, existing and new followers will qualify for two entries. Since I will be using a random number generator to select a winner, please leave a second comment letting me know you follow. No reply commenters, please leave your email address in your comment, otherwise I will not be able to reach you.

This giveaway is open to international readers. It will close on Saturday 14 December (New Zealand time), with a winner announced shortly afterwards. If I do not receive a reply within three days of the announcement, I will choose another winner.

The last time I participated in the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day, my fabric bundle ended up going to the armpit of Florida. I wonder where this one will end up? Exciteballs.

02 December 2013

Introducing Mr and Mrs M

Three and a half months in the planning, my sister and her fiance are now husband and wife. Such a joyous weekend, not even the showers and cold weather on the day itself could detract from the occasion (much). I have been feeding glimpses of the build-up to you on Instagram, and now here are some more details for your viewing pleasure.
My sister looked radiant in her Belladonna Elodie dress (something new). It fitted her perfectly and if you Google the dress, I think it looks much better on my sister than it does on the model. Just sayin'. She used our mother's vintage clutch purse (something old), wore my cathedral length veil (something borrowed) and when her blue garter showed through her dress, she decided to tie some blue ribbon around her shoe instead to complete the old good luck tradition.

From a photographic point of view, I had a disastrous time on the day. I would love to share with you photos of my girls and glimpses of them with all their cousins in their wedding finery and of the happy couple, but because of the way the day panned out, I only managed to take a small handful and they are mostly out of focus or have dignified poses and expressions like these:
I am so thankful that I spent some time taking photos of the church and reception venue the day before the wedding when we were helping to set up. The vows were exchanged in the new annex at Pukekaraka/St Mary's in Otaki, an hour's drive north of Wellington. The historic wooden church is so picturesque but was not able to be used because it was too small.
My first mistake was allowing my daughters to get into their dresses two hours before the wedding as I spent much of that time trying to ensure they stayed clean and dry (I forgot to pack an umbrella and their raincoats). My second mistake was leaving my seat at the church to check on the girls as they waited for their turn to walk in the procession. When I returned to my pew, the entire row was taken so I had to sit away from my bag - with my camera in it. I ended up in the front row across from the pageboys and flower girls and spent much of the ceremony looking over at them thinking I had the perfect spot to take photos. It was agonizing not being able to capture those moments. It must be said that all 14 nieces and nephews who formed the bridal party were so well-behaved during the service and made their parents very proud reading their prayers of the faithful and carrying out their duties during the course of the day.

I consoled myself with the fact that I could take some photos of the children after the ceremony. Third mistake. Children do not stand still at the best of times, let alone when they are excited to be with all of their cousins and in a new setting that has so many places to explore. I will be amazed if even the official wedding photographer managed to get half of them looking in the same direction at the same time.

The setting for the reception, the Milk Station, must be one of Kapiti Coast's best-kept secrets. It is a disused dairy factory, and the owners have spent considerable amounts of money converting it into a function centre with a rustic, Tuscan feel.
It is still being developed but the potential is undeniable. The statement fitting though is unquestionably the milk bottle chandelier that hangs in the banquet area. It looked so amazing at night, and with all of the candles lit up around the room, the ambience was perfect.
The table decorations were simple; a tealight floating in a punch glass filled with water, gorgeous flowers picked from the gardens of local friends and family and from my mother's garden and transported all the way from Taranaki in her tiny little car, hessian table runners and paper doilies to mark each guest's place at the table. My sister is a huge fan of candles; they were dotted on every flat surface and gave even more ambience to the room.
The wedding cake was a fruit cake made and decorated by my sister's friend. It looked so stunning, she did an amazing job.  The pomanders were brought to the venue from the church after the ceremony and placed in the gift room, which gave a nice touch to the area. The vintage suitcase to store cards from the guests belonged to our late father.  This was a day filled with such love. It was a day to make us all pause and reflect on what is important and even though the setting for the reception was truly spectacular, I felt in my heart that the location and the peripheral details we had all worked on in the lead-up to the day really did not matter at all in the end. I heard it in their heartfelt speeches to each other, I saw it in their gestures and I felt it in the company of those I was with. Without sounding nauseating, this is a couple so in tune with each other, I really get the sense that one would not function as well without the other.
Diane and Chris, you both deserve every happiness, here is to a wonderful future together filled with love, laughter and precious memories.

28 November 2013

Things that make me go mmmm

1. Kotsu You go, I go, flamingo.
2. Hello Lovely and you are lovely, necklace. (You need to get together with your creator and make some bracelet babies, 'kay? Thanks).
3. Vanilla Design This clock is all kinds of flavours, but vanilla sure ain't one of them.
4. Courtney Claire (go the 'Naki!). Design available as a placemat and as equally stylish coasters.

Brought to you in association with Hazel Loves Design and the letter M for Mporium. Did I mention everything pictured is not more than $35? Mint.

21 November 2013

Paper Moon loves Hazel Loves Design

You know that feeling when you read a notice on the door of a really popular hang-out and your heart starts pounding when you mentally check off all the criteria and you cry out "That sounds like something I would love to be involved with"? That's exactly how I felt when I read this post on Hazel Loves Design. Then, you send a carefully scripted email playing it cool but you're actually really crossing everything that it even gets read and THEN you get a reply saying "Yes, let's be friends". That was me, a few days ago.

I am very excited to share with you that I am one of 10 bloggers who will partner Hazel Loves Design to showcase the emerging businesses and creative talent that abounds on these shores. I think many of us have felt at times that we are the person with their nose pressed up against the glass looking in at all the coolness happening on the other side of the door. Supporting great New Zealand-made design and the creative brains behind it is something I truly feel passionate about. It is so exciting to be involved, I can't wait to help by using this space to promote New Zealand indie design and new businesses that I love. What this means is that you will likely see some promotions from Hazel Loves Design like the one currently on my sidebar and I'll be helping to spread the word about all of the amazing talent there is in this country of ours. With Hazel's help, I will also be offering wonderful giveaways from time to time.

How does that sound, friends? You don't have to say it, take it from someone who knows.


Her: "It's funny that my friend thinks the 's' word is 'shadow'".

Me: "What is the 's' word?".

Her: "Shut up".

14 November 2013

Don't give me a bug

Bugs are rampant at the moment in our community and we have not been immune to them, unfortunately. Sienna was affected by a viral illness over the past few days and missed almost a week of school. We have been keeping things as quiet for her as possible to aid her recovery so it has meant very little interaction with others, not an easy adjustment for our social butterfly. She doesn't even like being holed up in her bedroom away from us during the day when she is sick; instead she gets rugged up on our couch to be closer to whoever is in the house at the time.

Her sweet friend left a little message to her in our mailbox, which was a real bright spot in her week. Today, she returned to school and was met with a pile of Get Well Soon cards written for her by her entire class.
To be honest, reading these cards probably meant more to me than it did to Sienna. I know the children were instructed to write notes in the cards, but the fact that someone took the time to make the suggestion and prepare the cards shows that she was thought of, that she matters. Each classmate wrote their own message and some included their own drawings. The heartfelt messages from the children who are close to Sienna were easy to spot and some of the other messages put a smile on my face with their unintentional humour.
It was a wonderfully thoughtful and unexpected gesture and it brightened our week. Again, it's the simple things, isn't it?

10 November 2013

Postcard from {Wellington}: Fireworks display

Every year, weather permitting, the Wellington City Council provides a 15 minute fireworks display to mark Guy Fawkes Day. Usually it is set on the actual day itself, but this time, it was held on Saturday night, and it was the perfect evening with barely a whisper of wind. Set on a barge out in the harbour, the fireworks make for some spectacular scenery and because of the topography of this city, there are plenty of hilltops from which to take in the view.
We could walk to our vantage point and joined hundreds of other people along the ridgeline to watch the display. On nights like this, I am reminded of why it is that I love living here. Just look at that view. The girls were so excited to be going out after dark. It's the simple things, isn't it?
* Photos taken by my masterful and multi-talented and handsome husband.

08 November 2013

Raising responsible children

Time to tackle the elephant in the room. If you would rather not read about a topic relating to sexual assault and rape, please do not read any further. You have been warned.

It has been four days since the media broke the story of a group of teenage boys in Auckland belonging to a "gang" who plied girls as young as 13 with alcohol in order to record having sex with them and who then bragged about it online over a period of two years.  I have been expecting this topic to be mentioned somewhere on the blogs I follow, but so far, there has been silence. I wonder why that is? That isn't to say the subject hasn't been discussed and dissected already in the media, but I want to hear thoughts from a parental point of view. As a mother of three girls, I feel so sickened and incensed and would like to have an open and frank discussion even if the subject matter is controversial or whether your viewpoint differs to my own. Because, if we look the other way, this could well be our own children in years to come.

Firstly, most of the anger from the public is, rightly, being directed at the perpetrators of these acts. How could these boys be able to continue their predatory ways for two years before any appropriate action by the authorities was taken? If, as reported, these activities were widely known by the boys' and girls' peers, how could the information not have filtered back to the families or schools? Where were the parents and wider family networks in all of this? Why didn't they notice and call into question the shocking claims being written on the boys' social media page? The police, by their own admission, were monitoring the page, but issued a statement that they were unable to bring charges due to insufficient evidence. It has since been revealed that four girls laid complaints, one formally, with the police in the last two years. It paints a very bad picture for the police when media reports have stated that one of the boys in this "gang" is a police officer's son. Now a formal investigation into how the police handled those initial complaints has been ordered by the Police Minister and there will likely be more fallout in the weeks to come.

Secondly, I found the attitude of the female teenagers who have spoken out in defence of the boys to be very disturbing. That casual group sex is considered a normal activity is astounding. What is going on with our youth for them to believe this kind of conduct is normal? Let's not forget the fact that some of the girls involved were minors. According to a witness statement, the girls were supposedly given alcohol with the aim to intoxicate and incapacitate them while the boys remained sober. This is quite revealing in how calculated the boys' actions and intentions were.

To add to the humiliation of the girls concerned, the boys boasted of their supposed "conquests" online. As if living with memories of traumatic experiences is not bad enough, now, cellphone photos and recordings are uploaded to the internet for the whole world to see. Over and over again. Forever. That these actions will have future wide-reaching ramifications in the lives of everyone concerned does not even seem to register with these teens.

As parents, without doubt, we have a role to play in this. Are we teaching our children what is respectful behaviour and modelling the kind of conduct we expect them to have from a very early age? Is the issue wider than that? Are we giving our children too many social freedoms before they have proven themselves to be responsible enough or is there just not enough monitoring of our children's online habits and interactions with their peers? Are we simply not communicating enough with them? It's a minefield raising children in this internet age and I don't claim to have all of the answers. I genuinely want to know how we can navigate it safely together.

For really really well-researched insight into this subject, feel free to check out Sacraparental's blog.

04 November 2013

Fireworks party

Renee celebrated her sixth birthday with a Guy Fawkes birthday party over the weekend. We had a snap, crackle and pop theme running through the food and games we played.

It was a beautiful day and we strung our outdoor lanterns up in the tree, which is a rare sight in this windy city of ours. My husband was chief sparkler lighter and general entertainer. Renee and her guests enjoyed an open air disco and Katy Perry's "Firework" didn't even feature on the playlist. Sack the DJ. I would have taken photos of the girls with their sparklers, but since it was just me and my husband supervising nine girls, safety came first.
Amongst other things, I served popcorn, a chocolate wafer loaf (snap!) and rice bubble slice (crackle!!), with a very timely recipe borrowed from A Little Bit Country. You were right, Elaina, it took longer to make than it did to eat. This was helped by the fact that the cupcakes looked much better than they tasted and were barely touched. Such a letdown. Substituting eggs with egg replacer doesn't always work very well and the fruit, well, even if it is cut up prettily, it's still fruit and if children don't like it, they won't go near that either. Poor rockmelon, don't get a complex. It's not you, it's them.
We made water fireworks and everyone thought that was a little bit magical. Less magical was the oil and food colouring spillage. Definitely an outside activity, this one.
Renee, the past six years have vanished in a blur of raising three girls born four years apart, kindergarten, school, sport, family and friends and all the activities associated with these communities. Through the busyness that is our family life, we have been able to capture quiet moments, just the two of us. You may not realise how much I cherish them, but I hope, in time, that you will have warm memories of those moments too. I love that you climb in to my bed for morning cuddles and you tell me how much you are looking forward to going to school. I love that we can take a few minutes after reading your book or during bath time to talk about what is happening in your world.
You have already completed a full year of school yet I look at your face and I am glad that I can still see flashes of my smiling, contented baby. My beautiful, sensitive girl, animal-lover and creative soul who has an air of cheekiness too. I watch you apply yourself to everything that you do and persevere when faced with challenges. That trait will stand you in good stead in life. I wonder what you will become when you are older? Whatever it may be, keep being the gentle, beautiful soul that you are. Happy birthday! How blessed we are to have you.

30 October 2013

Sloth Sunday

Or "What the Kids Didn't See". My lovely husband took our girls up to spend the day at the farm on Sunday, so I shall share with you some of the things that I did and didn't do while they were away for a full six hours.

The kids didn't see me not do any housework. Not even to put away three heaving basketloads of clean washing that are still sitting in the lounge, two days after the long weekend has finished. Let's not mention the state of the bathroom. I'm a bit scared to go in there without wearing a Hazmat suit and breathing apparatus. They didn't see me not clean the BBQ utensils that have finally been brought in after spending six lonely months living in our outdoor BBQ. Six months of build-up on those suckers. They're still sitting on the kitchen bench. I wonder if there is a certain timeframe in which these things start to self-regulate, like hair if you don't shampoo it for a while.

The girls didn't see me relive my youth while singing badly to Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams. They didn't see me eat a Picnic bar (there were no Moros) and a bag of licorice allsorts and call it lunch. I didn't even have to hide the evidence until 5pm.

I know I sound incredibly lazy. Maybe I am part-sloth. I do like to sleep alot. It's not that I wasn't doing anything. I sewed. All day. I finished off a wrist corsage for the wedding and lined my daughters' flower girl dresses amongst a few other bits and pieces.
The corsage is for my niece who has cerebral palsy. It has been designed with comfort in mind so the band is elasticated with individual pearl embellishments glued around it. I wanted the flower to be large since it is effectively replacing a bouquet, but am a little worried that it might be too big. My seven year old has the same sized wrist as my niece and she is modelling the corsage in the above photo. 
With this project completed (unless I decide to make a smaller corsage), I think my involvement with the wedding preparation is nearly at an end. I don't quite know how I feel about that. It has been so much fun to be part of the planning and I am very grateful to my sister for allowing me to have a degree of creative licence with the floral arrangements. The next time I blog about the wedding, the big day will have been and gone and I will hopefully be allowed to share some photos with you all.

21 October 2013

Postcard from {Wellington} - Taputeranga Marine Reserve

It was a beautiful day on Saturday and we drove down to the south coast to the rugged coastline that lies west of Owhiro Bay. You can sit on this seat and look over the Cook Strait and see the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island.

This spot is a place that is popular with divers and snorkellers but we are total landlubbers so we wandered down to the craggy rocks where the girls lost themselves in the rock pools until they uncovered some sea snails, starfish and a crab all in one pool which promptly scared them off exploring further. Townies.
An unsealed road leads past an old quarry and further around the point to Red Rocks and Sinclair Head. There is a fur seal colony that 4WD and mountain bike enthusiasts can ride to up to a certain point and I had hoped to walk around there with the family and take photos. That idea was quickly scotched after all three girls took a completely impromptu but totally foreseeable dip in the water instead.  It is about a two hour round trip to walk to the seal colony so the "swim" probably was a blessing in disguise.
I love that although the Wellington CBD lies just 10 minutes drive away, you can still find places like this that make you feel as if you are the only ones around.

16 October 2013

Toss bouquet

Last bouquet post, I promise. I made this fabric bouquet over the weekend for my sister to do the traditional bouquet toss at the wedding reception. She had given me one of her old bridesmaid's outfits a few years ago to make use of the fabric and now seemed the perfect time to use it. 
Butterflies are very significant to my sister and her fiance, so it felt right to include one on this bouquet. It is made from card and was recycled from a birthday party invitation to Aimee. Although the photo suggests otherwise, the colours of the butterfly complement the tones of the bouquet

I used some of the buttons from the bodice to place in the centre of a couple of flowers and wrapped the stem with the same vintage lace that is used on the junior flower girl bouquets. I like that there is a touch of sentimental value to the bouquet in using parts of the dress that my sister wore and the lace given to me by our grandmother.
It is really quite a deceptively heavy bouquet, and it survived a couple of practice runs at throwing it (think caber-tossing, that should give you an idea of the finesse of the throws), so it should hopefully last the one final important toss - I wonder who will catch it?

11 October 2013

There's happy messes

And then there's this. It can generally be anticipated that there will be moments that require you to exhale just that little bit more deeply before launching into wrangling children over the course of school holidays, but it just felt like the majority of these holidays were like that. And there's still three days to go. We have experienced lovely holidays before, so I know they do happen and it's wonderful when they do but somehow, this time, my usually quite pleasant girls were replaced with Perpetual Whinger, Painfully Petulant, The Antagonist, Quietly Destructive and Borderline Demonic. Yes, I only have three children but over the last two weeks, I'm pretty sure two of them had split personalities.

Admittedly, I've been preoccupied with wedding decorations these past few weeks so I haven't necessarily been "in the moment" with my children when I ought to have been. This has led to some interesting discoveries around the house. Like my lovely rimu kitchen table with oil-based paint smeared on it and gouge marks where somebody helpfully tried to scrape it off with a steak knife.

When I found a whole new roll of toilet paper unravelled and stuffed down the toilet effectively blocking it, I was annoyed but calm when I explained that it was perhaps not the most economical butt wipe of the year, but when it happened another two times in the same day, the writing was on the wall as far as how the rest of that day panned out. Panned, toilet - hehehe. My good moodometer was close to hitting expletive point* by this stage, but there were still gems to come.

The girls decided to perform in a circus another day. Great! I'm all for imaginative play and fashioning props from general household items. Except when the prop happens to be my broom being used to walk a tightrope between their beds. Rest in peace, broom, rest in peace.

I have to remind myself they are still little and while their brains find workable solutions, they still don't have the capacity to see possible flaws in their logic. I could hear the girls outside playing swingball - a two-person game, but they were taking it in turns and playing nicely, so I left them to it. A while later, I went out to find my washing line in two pieces. Apparently, it was in the way of the swingball set so they decided to cut it in half.
Now, any good blogger would be out with their camera capturing these gems of parenting moments and I originally inferred that I would not be showing them here to protect the guilty parties. However, it seems I can be persuaded to add photographic evidence if my readers ask nicely enough.

If I receive comments to the effect of how wonderful your school holidays were and how so much fun was had spending quality family time together, I will get violent. Wish me luck for the weekend.

* Disclaimer: I have never ever sworn at my children, not even during childbirth, I just say it REALLY LOUDLY in my head.

09 October 2013

Artificial bouquets

My sister has a vintage theme in mind for her wedding, although I think the final, overall look will be quite eclectic, as much of the items are being collected from a number of different places, with mismatched china, table decorations, seating and the like. It should make for some really pretty photos. She is quite relaxed about what flowergirl dresses are worn which is helpful as the entire bridal party is spread right across the North Island. With such a broad age range to consider, there is little chance of each girl agreeing to a specific style or colour, but the aim is to be as complementary as distance and budget allows.

To help keep the look cohesive, I have been making flower girl posies using a very neutral palette for the artificial flowers. I experimented with different fabric types to see what would work best for the flowers I had in mind. In my fabric stash was eight metres of white polyester lining, purchased two or three years ago for $1/metre when I stumbled upon an amazing pop-up fabric sale held in a vacant office space in Wellington. I also had some off-white satin lining, as well as a few metres of cream crepe de chine and some beige polyester fabric, so I was in no danger of running out of a particular fabric to finish each posy. This was important given there were eight posies to make.
I did expect that it would take a while to make each posy, but little did I know that I would still be working on them two weeks after I started. My glue gun and I are great mates now and the blistered skin on my fingers is starting to heal. I thought you might like to see how it all turned out.

There are little girls, tweens and a teenager in the bridal party so I ran an idea past my sister to keep the posies age-appropriate and she really liked the concept. The junior flower girls are between 2-5 years old. Speaking from experience, a 2 year old cannot hold a bouquet in front of their body for very long, so I made some flower wands for each girl to hold. They are very lightweight and designed to be held up and away from the body so as not to hide their faces as they walk down the aisle. The individual flowers are very time-consuming to make but worth the effort.
I followed a tutorial on the internet and I really wanted to say they look like peonies but that would flatter their real form. They still give a lovely effect though. From a distance, they look like candy floss or the underskirt of a full petticoat. The ribbon is some vintage lace that belonged to my grandmother. I used the same white lining to wrap around the wooden dowel.
For the older flower girls, who are aged from 7-13, small posies have been made using the same white flowers, some artificial roses and large silky petal flowers. No chance of getting hayfever with these babies.
With eight posies completed, I have turned my attention to making a wrist corsage for my niece who has cerebral palsy. I can't access my Pinterest account at the moment and I really wanted to spend some time there looking for some ideas *sigh*. Would you please do me a favour and let me know if you can see my Pinterest boards when you click on my sidebar? All I get is an error message and I can't pin anything new. I forged ahead anyway and you can see how it is taking shape on my Instagram page, if you like.
It is such a miserable day here and I would have loved to have taken some outdoor photos with these bouquets, so I am sorry, you will have to settle for some poxy indoor snaps instead.

Skinny marinky linky link with Leonie at Show at Tell this week.

30 September 2013

Testing, testing, one, two...

Last year, I decided I would teach myself some new crafts, crochet and embroidery among them, and this was met with varying degrees of success. I am also a completely self-taught sewist (unless you count the term of sewing lessons I had as part of the school curriculum when I was around 11). The last 12 months have been spent learning new (to me) techniques, like how to sew in zips and make buttonholes and fundamental skills like threading an overlocker. It was a huge year of learning and while I do now have a few sewing projects under my belt, I would still really only consider myself an advanced beginner.

In spite of that, (or because of that), you will find me attempting ambitious projects, or more precisely, turning simple projects into more challenging ones because of my poor fabric choices.

I am very glad that I ventured into the world of blogging last year, otherwise I would never have 'met' some really talented people, like Lisa from Big Little. It's unlikely, but if you haven't heard of her, she designs and makes beautiful clothing for children, specifically adorable coats made from repurposed woollen blankets. I truly admire her work, so it was a great honour to be asked to test a couple of her sewing and embroidery patterns.

Holidays are most definitely not the time for me to be working on sewing projects, unless it's something really quick and easy. It turned out that this cape was one such project and the tutorial has very clear step-by-step instructions and accompanying photos. Keep in mind that I only started sewing in earnest over the last couple of years, so when I say the pattern is easy, it really is.

I ended up making two versions. The hooded cape is made from blue velvet. I cut out the Size 3 pattern, even though Aimee is 4, as she is quite small for her age - apart from her deceptively massive cranium (full of brains, like her mother's), so I probably should have made the hood with the Size 4 pattern piece. There is an option to embellish the cape, but I decided to leave this one plain. I have to say that working with velvet is quite tricky if you decide to sew without pins. The fabric likes to shift about, so if you do make one yourselves, save alot of time and heartache and take the extra few minutes to pin it well. It fits her perfectly and it looks so cute on. I was lucky to capture these few photos of Aimee wearing it because she now refuses to try it on since it's not pink. Fussbag. I should have learnt my lesson from the last time I sewed something for her.
The other cape was made from vintage wool fabric that belonged to my mother. It was moth-eaten in parts, so it meant that I had to opt for the collared version of the pattern and I couldn't line up the tartan as well as I would have liked.
When she first saw the material, Renee wasn't convinced and said it looked like a picnic blanket. Double fussbag. When did my girls start having opinions? I cut out the Size 6 pattern and as you can see the chances are high that she will get at least two seasons wear out of it. I like this collared version with this fabric, it almost reminds me of old nursing uniforms in style.

It was paired with a light floral and spotted cotton lining and I made a crochet rose to pin on the front of it. It turns out that Renee quite likes her picnic blanket. One out of two ain't bad.

Thank you Lisa, for taking a leap of faith and inviting me to test this pattern. If any readers would like to make one, Big Little's Little Red Riding Hood Cape pattern is available for purchase now in her Etsy store.

Slinky malinky at Leonie's this week.

26 September 2013

You say boutonnieres

I say buttonholes. You say tomayto, I say tomato. You say bouquet, I say bucket - wait a minute...

Instead of having bridesmaids and groomsmen, my sister has opted to have all of her nieces and nephews form the bridal party instead. It's a lovely idea, but with nine flowergirls and four pageboys ranging in ages from 2-13, it makes for a rather large group to cater for their bouquets and buttonholes.

Obviously, a group of this size impacts on my sister's wedding budget, but she insists upon having all of them in the bridal party, so we have been looking at ways to reduce costs by using alternatives to fresh flowers. With her blessing, the challenge for me has been to make something for each niece and nephew that looks passable and doesn't cost too much - without it looking like it didn't cost much.

Because not everyone has settled upon colours and styles for the pageboys and flower girls' outfits, it seemed logical to keep the flowers fairly neutral, which brings me to my latest project.

A couple of nights ago, I spent an hour making these buttonholes. They were surprisingly quick to put together. I made an extra one for our little baby nephew to wear, even though he may not be in the official bridal party, and I am debating making some extras anyway in case of buttonhole malfunctions on the day. You never know, it is only fabric glue holding these babies together.
To make the roses, I used the same technique to make the crepe paper flowers, but this time I dabbed some fabric glue around intermittently to keep the 'petals' in place. Then I wound some charcoal yarn around the stem and glued it in place with a small safety pin inserted in the back. Hopefully the charcoal will be unobtrusive on their suit lapels, but I am considering redoing them in lighter twine in case it's a hot day and the boys end up wearing white shirts instead of jackets or waistcoats.

It was not as fiddly as I thought to make these buttonholes and I really enjoyed the process. I'm already looking ahead to the next project on my list, the flowergirl posies. Something tells me they won't be as quick to make.

Joining in for Show and Tell again this week. Check it out for more creative inspiration.

22 September 2013

Postcard from {Wellington} - Zoo sleepover

One of spring's impressive thunder and lightening displays coincided with a very exciting outing on Friday night. Fortunately the extreme weather conditions only seemed to add to the sense of adventure for Sienna's Brownie unit which was spending the night at Wellington Zoo. With the evening sky lighting up at regular intervals, our family drove across town through the downpour, watching street lights flicker and lose power, navigating the flooded streets and splashing through huge pools of water with our windscreen wipers on full tilt, much to the delight of the girls.
The group of girls assembled at their meeting point and after a watching a brief introductory safety video, our guide took us through the rain up to the giraffe enclosure where he attempted to feed one of them.  They weren't at all interested, with one disappearing into her bedroom but the other didn't seem to mind the torch light trained on her or the flash photography. They are such beautiful creatures. Who knew that a female giraffe is pregnant for almost two years? Nine months ain't so long now, hmm?
We were taken behind the scenes to a shed called the enrichment area where the girls all made some tactile toys for the monkeys by wedging popcorn and raisins inside pinecones and toilet rolls. They also viewed the prep area for the animals' food and the large chillers where their vegetables and meat are stored.

I probably should have spent time familiarising myself with how to operate my camera in nighttime settings; so many of my photos were unusable and don't truly capture how eerie but beautiful it is to be walking around the zoo at night.
The girls were taken down to the creepy crawly enclosures. Hairy spiders are only marginally worse than squealing girls. I find large spiders and snakes so intriguing, probably because New Zealand doesn't have them in the wild. Whilst I regard them with both awe and revulsion in equal measure, I can appreciate them more with safety glass between us. The following day, we returned to find one of the spiders upside down, still big, still hairy, but seemingly dead. She was just tricking us though and was in fact in the process of shedding her outer skin, which is something that only happens once or twice a year. Depending on how you feel about these things, we were quite lucky to witness that.

After two hours spent wandering the zoo, it was time to return to our lodgings for the night. Our sleeping quarters overlooked Monkey Island and waking to the sound of spider monkeys calling was very cool.

The rain that had fallen steadily through the evening continued into the next morning, but it did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the children as we ventured back into the zoo after breakfast to watch some animals being fed. Some of the girls were able to help the guide throw their makings from the previous night's activity over the moat to the monkeys.
Although not visited by us on this occasion, one aspect of the zoo that I really love is its veterinary clinic called The Nest, where sick zoo animals and injured native wildlife brought in from outside the zoo can be treated. Two such creatures were some little blue penguins, one with only one leg and it was being rehabilitated in an enclosure when we visited.

We were taken into an area of the zoo that is still under development and will open to the public this weekend. Called Neighbours, it is an exhibit of some of Australia's furry creatures. Visitors will be able to walk through without barriers between themselves and the animals. In this place, my camera battery gave up so I can't show you how close we could get to the wallabies and kangaroos. Instead, you get a picture of a sun bear, taken by Sienna.
It was an amazing 14 hours and at a cost of $800 for up to 20 people, it is not something that we would have ever contemplated doing as a family, so we are very grateful for the wonderful opportunities that Sienna has been given through being a Brownie.