23 March 2016

Waiorongomai Station

This is one of those places that you don't really want to tell anybody about because it is that special that you don't want the secret to get out. My husband competed in his first half-marathon in Martinborough last Sunday, and I thought instead of getting up at a stupid hour to drive a couple of hours to get there on the race day, the far more sensible option would be to book some accommodation and make a weekend of it. Just two hours' drive from Wellington, Martinborough is very popular for weekend city escapes and even though I started looking three weeks before the race day, I could not find any accommodation for a family of five anywhere in the township. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it meant that I stumbled upon the cutest bach near the shores of Lake Wairarapa, just a half hour's drive away from Martinborough.

Waiorongomai Station is a sheep and beef farm owned by the Matthews family who are direct descendants of one of New Zealand's pioneering farming families. Seven generations have lived on the land which borders the lake and stretches to the Rimutaka Ranges in the west. There are several accommodation options available year-round from the expansive original homestead to two beautifully renovated farm cottages. Burlings Bach is one of them. After staying in the bach and reading about the family's farming origins, the connection the Matthews have to the land and sharing the pride of its history with complete strangers is really quite palpable. Burlings Bach was named after owners of the neighbouring property who leased their land to the Matthews before they eventually bought it. The bach accommodates eight people with plenty of room for everyone. It is fully equipped with everything needed for a restful stay out of the rat race. Home baking and freshly picked flowers greeted us on arrival and it quickly made me forget that we had spent four hours driving to get there after an accident on the Rimutaka Hill closed the road temporarily.

Just down the road from the bach is a lovely little ecumenical church, built by the Matthews family in 1927 to serve the whole community and as a way to honour all the families who have worked at Waiorongomai. The headstones of family members including the first pioneers, Charles and Elizabeth Matthews, stand in the grounds of the church.

With an already-full itinerary planned for our Wairarapa escape, we had very limited time to explore the farm itself but Bert and Ernie, the resident kunekune pigs, were a must-see. They greeted us like old friends when we walked down the track armed with our food scraps.
Waiorongomai means "waters of repute", a special name for a truly unique place. We left here feeling so well-rested and with a need to return one day with family and friends. Thank you Charlie, Karla and family for a very memorable weekend.

16 March 2016

Mid-century chair makeover

Say hello to my new old friend. We've had a pair of these mid-century chairs for a while; they belonged to my grandmother and were used for a time at two of my sisters' homes before they came to live with us. I love that they've got a bit of our family story woven into them. They're just a classic style and built to last - apart from the fabric which was so worn in places that I had been hiding their poor condition under a throw. We always planned to reupholster them one day. That day came the weekend before last. This is how they used to look:
My husband and I have different tastes in home decor and DIY methodology, which complicates things. Put two fabric swatches in front of us that are different shades or patterns, and we pick the opposite to each other. When he decides that he wants to start a project, he just wants to get it finished as quickly as possible, which is great but it means making snap decisions at times and I hate being rushed. These chairs have waited several years to be recovered, what is another couple of weeks until we find the perfect fabric? Besides, there were a few steps that needed to be taken before sewing covers could even start. The chair back foam was glued well to the metal frame and needed to be cut away. The wooden parts of the frame needed some touching up and the shiny varnish sanded back so a matte Danish oil could be applied instead. A full day was needed for the oil to properly harden.
We had foam cut to our specifications for the seats (515x515x125mm). The old covers were in such poor shape that they could not be used as a template when we cut out our new fabric so making the new covers was the most time-consuming stage. What am I even saying?? I have no idea if this was the most time-consuming part, I didn't do anything in this project except take the photos and look at fabric.

Speaking of fabric, there is so much choice available now - it's actually really overwhelming. I went to several fabric stores in Wellington and looked online (I told you I like to take my time and cover all my bases) and I have to say that even though we bought elsewhere in the end, I was most impressed by the service and speed of delivery of the samples I ordered from Martha's Furnishing Fabrics in Auckland. The generous size of the samples they sent out really gave me a decent idea of whether or not the fabric would look good en masse and they even included five extra fabrics that they thought we might like. I also wanted to show you this amazing print I really loved that I found trawling through fabrics online. I obtained a sample (which was a different colour from the screenshot) from Fabrics Direct in town. It sat on the chair for a whole weekend and I started having second thoughts about it. At $65/m, I wasn't really prepared to take the plunge and then decide after it was too late that the colour didn't suit the rest of the house.
Charles Parsons Maze in turquoise
My husband was thinking more along the lines of a textured solid colour similar to the original chair fabric. We ended up settling on a textured neutral from The Fabric Store in Wellington. It probably was not on either of our radars before we started looking seriously at all the fabric options so I guess keeping an open mind is the lesson in all of this. It's not an upholstery fabric though, but at $38/m it was a price we felt we could afford, particularly because we also needed to replace the foam too. These chairs can really handle bold prints but when I thought more about it, opting for a neutral will mean these chairs will remain timeless and it's so much easier (and cheaper!) to add colour with cushions.
Can I also just add that a husband working at a sewing machine = so hot. Buoyed by the success of these chairs, he is going to tackle the last taboo of sewing - ROMAN BLINDS. Should I tell him that those things are best left to the professionals? This should be fun to watch. He's insane. Insanely cute, but still insane.

03 March 2016

Five free(ish) events in W-town this weekend

It's been one of those weeks where the weekend can't come soon enough. It motivated me to look up what is happening around Wellington and it turns out there are actually quite a few family-friendly events, so I thought I'd share what I found with you. It also happens to be Children's Day on Sunday, so let's go out there, take in the sights and sounds and have some fun with the family - or at least feel relieved that yours won't be the only family that can't have an outing without someone having a decent whinge about something. If you're not a fan of heaving crowds, take this as a heads up for the places to avoid this weekend. You're welcome.

If you have preschoolers, Civic Square will be turned into a giant playground with the help of the Wellington City Council, which will include good old-fashioned games like an egg and spoon race and facepainting.
Where: Civic Square
When: 4 March 11-2pm

Hailing from Spain and brought here as part of the New Zealand Festival, Arquitectura de Feria is a fantastical playground made from recycled materials which has been installed near the waterfront. There are swarthy actors (who may or may not be Spanish) and all the rides are people-powered, including a Ferris wheel made from toilet seats.
When: 2-10pm daily (except Monday) until 19 March
Where: Frank Kitts Park, Jervois Quay
Photo credit: Ireen Demut

Wander around to the Performance Arcade, a series of containers further along the waterfront to view some artworks and enjoy some live music playing into the evening.
Where: Wellington waterfront
When: 5 March from 1.30pm/6 March from midday

The Performance Arcade

Along the way, be sure to check out the stunning and sobering "Fly Me Up to Where You Are" flag art installation conceptualised by Tiffany Singh for the New Zealand Festival, which bear the hopes and dreams of thousands of schoolchildren from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Free entry for children on Sunday only - worth a mention for the fee-paying adults accompanying them.
Where: Staglands Wildlife Reserve
When: 6 March 9.30-5pm

Where: Zealandia Sanctuary
When: 6 March 9-4pm

Event schedule accurate as at 3 March.