Tuesday, 29 January 2013

She's a beauty

After searching New Zealand wide for nearly a year we found her, only 5 km up the road, just sitting there waiting for us to find her.

We've named her Miss Daisy and she is already one of the family.  The kids have commandeered her as a playhouse, in fact it's so full of their things I can hardly open the door. She needs a bit of love and attention but with a bit of hard work and a lick of paint, she'll be as good as new, restored to her former glory. I've been thinking of all the ways I'd like to decorate her inside, fabric choices will be made, time will be spent sewing, and she will be filled with useful but gorgeous things essential to happy camping. 

I've been dreaming about all the holidays we're going to have with her when she's roadworthy. I can picture myself taking her and the kids away when Anthony's working abroad, or family Christmas' in camping grounds, or weekend getaways at the beach. Or better still, the three month long trip around our country that we've talked of for so long. Welcome Miss Daisy, we're so glad to have you in our driveway.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The illusive yoghurt and a yummy tart

One of the things on my rather long list of things to make is yoghurt, not the kind of yoghurt using a packet mix and water, but real yoghurt, using milk, a pot and a thermometer. I've had a couple of goes at it and who knew how simple the method was, the difficulty I've found though is getting set yoghurt at the end of it. The first time it worked a charm, it was creamy and tangy and even the kids loved it.

The second time was not so great, it didn't set. I did two things differently with that batch though, I used some of the yoghurt of my first batch as the starter and I used the Easiyo thermos containers to keep it warm. Determined to succeed I had another go, I used slightly different milk this time, shop-bought yoghurt as culture and put it in the chillybin again to keep warm. It's not looking so great I have to say, not the creamy thick yoghurt I was striving for, but rather a watery and runny concoction...

 I haven't minded the failures though.  Not wanting to waste the ingredients on my second batch I sieved it through muslin cloth and ended up with a third the volume in what looked like cream cheese - yum! Wondering what to have for dinner one evening I created this tart using rainbow chard from my garden and the failed yoghurt cheese. Although I love to follow recipes I'm not great at writing them so here's a description of what I did:

Wash a good bunch of rainbow chard (you could use spinach or silverbeet) and cook gently until wilted. Chop and mix with failed yoghurt cheese, a good grating of parmesan, an egg and the rind of a lemon (or you could use mint instead). Pile on top of a flaky pastry sheet leaving a gap around the edge then place another pastry sheet on top, moistening and crimping the edges to encase the filling. Bake at 190 degrees C for 30 minutes or until puffed and brown. Yum!

As lovely as it is to have yoghurt cheese in the fridge, I'd really like some yoghurt so it's back to the drawing board...

Sunday, 27 January 2013



"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013" via Che and Fidel.
Ella: Cuddles with her Dad, still loving that at 8 years old:
Lucia: Creature hunting at the beach
Marcus: Engrossed in the action on our first family trip to the Speedway

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


I've been knitting this Tea Leaves for quite some time, and it's been hibernating for quite some time as well. You see I cast it aside when I fell in love with the Mae Shrug at the end of Spring. Thinking Mae would be more wearable for summer I quickly knit to the beginning of the first sleeve of my Tea Leaves then consigned it to the bottom of my knitting basket.  Now with my Mae Shrug off the needles, I've come back to it and after a few car journeys I am nearly finished the second sleeve. The yarn is Harvest in a gorgeous heathered green bought from Holland Road Yarn Company in Petone. It's lovely to knit with and will be nice and warm for the cooler evenings ahead.

We visited the library again yesterday and I came home with a good stack of books, there's knitting, photography, English grammar, detective stories and magazines. I've put Simplicity Parenting to one side for now, I'm finding it hard going at night but hopefully I'll pick it up again when the kids are all back at school next week, I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet! I've started Eats, Shoots and Leaves - The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation and I'm finding it very amusing, laughing out loud in parts even. I used to be an editor in my previous life (before kids that is) and I do get very annoyed when I see signs with terrible spelling or punctuation so this book is right up my alley. I'm not saying my spelling or punctuation is perfect, far from it! It seems that side of my brain hasn't returned to fully functional yet....this blogging is sure to help.

Joining in with Ginny and looking forward to seeing what everyone else is up to.  

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Rural showdown

On the weekend we took the kids and my Mum to the Levin Agricultural Pastoral and Industrial Show. This is the second year we've been and we all really enjoyed it, it was a great day out. These agricultural shows are a dying breed, not many regions in New Zealand still host them and it would be a real shame to lose them entirely, they are a perfect blend of town and country and show what New Zealand's all about.

There's really something there for everyone.  The boys loved the vintage machinery and vehicles, the line-up of tractors was very impressive and there was no shortage of enthusiastic men of a certain era to show them off.  The girls loved the amusement rides most funnily enough, not the pigs, sheep, poultry, alpacas, show jumping or ice-cream, but the bumper cars.....

I love watching the animals in the Show ring, especially the Dairy cows. It's a dream of mine to own a house cow that I could share-milk with a calf, Anthony doesn't share my dream unfortunately so I've had to be creative in trying to make it happen. My Plan A began with getting Flora as a calf for the kids school gala 18 months ago. However, things are not working out well on that front - it turns out that Flora is not the docile Jersey cow I thought I was getting, instead she is a crazy skittish animal whom we can't even herd across the road to a paddock full of grass let alone up the road to visit the bull.  For now I fear milking is off the menu. So, looking at the Dairy class at the show was the closest I'm going to get to milking in a wee while, until I come up with Plan B.... I'm working on that.....

I also loved wandering through the Home Industries exhibits - picture elderly ladies showing off their skill in knitting, sewing, crocheting, baking, preserving, flower arranging, weaving, card-making and so on. There were some beautiful things of display and I'm kicking myself for not taking any photos. It must have been very difficult to award prizes but I did find myself a little miffed by some of the judging. I would hazard a guess that the judges were of a certain generation, who judged according to their tastes, preferring old-fashioned knitted garments to ones more modern in look. It has me fired up though, I'm thinking I might enter a knitted tea cosy next year - you know, shake things up a bit. I'd have to choose my pattern wisely though, something that will knock their socks off but not offend their more traditional sensibilities.  While I'm at it I could have a go at the chocolate cake... or the tomato relish....who knows where it could take me!

Monday, 21 January 2013

It's a hat-trick

The kids needed new sunhats and after a bit of searching online I found this free pattern by Liesl Gibson. I printed it out but the scale wasn't right so rather than muck around with my printer settings, I reserved the book online then picked it up from my local library. I'm glad I did get the book though, there are lots of cute things in it to make, I especially love the penguin backpack and the messenger bag.

So having the pattern, I then let the kids raid my fabric stash. Lucia and Marcus's choices were quickly and easily made. Ella on the other hand took a bit more time with her design. She wanted a hat that used four fabrics, two different tops and two different brims and then spent quite some time working out how she wanted it to look, even drawing a diagram for me so I didn't get it wrong. She's quite particular that Ella (that's her on the right below), she knows her mind.

Sewing them was really straightforward  even though I'd never sewn curves before, the instructions were very easy to read, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out. I'll definitely be making them again. The hardest thing was photographing them. I tried to make a photo shoot sound really exciting but they weren't buying into it. On the first attempt they were all in their pyjamas (at 4.30pm on account of a game they were playing?!) and Marcus declined on account of it being "too embarrassing". The girls had no such qualms though as you can see above. On the second attempt I used food as bribery and managed to get a couple of ok shots... I can see now why some photographers refuse to work with animals and children.


Saturday, 19 January 2013



"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013" via Che and Fidel.

Ella: This girl loves her bike
Lucia: Testing my new camera's action shot abilities
Marcus: Proof that some nights if you eat all your dinner you get icecream

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Joining in with Ginny.


This is not knitting, it's definitely not crochet as I haven't a clue how to do that....it does use yarn though so I'm hoping it counts for the yarn-along.

I've been beavering away on this gorgeous needlepoint tapestry since it arrived in November. It's designed by Anna Maria Horner for Anchor Living and it uses tapisserie wool in the most gorgeous vivid colours. I had no idea how much fun this would be, it's just like colouring-in but with wool and canvas instead of paper and pens. I aim to stitch a length of thread each day and I'm making good progress, it's slow but it's progress nonetheless. Often slow is exactly what I need, love it.

On the reading front, I've just started Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne which I'm finding really interesting. I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open at night though so I'm only getting through a couple of pages at a time, again  progress is slow, but it's progress nonetheless! 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


...I've been tiring of the rain, the last three days of solid rain has filled the tanks, now if it could kindly make it's way to the fire ravaged parts of Australia where it's really needed I'd be most grateful

...we've been enjoying an abundance of eggs - no-one told the chooks we weren't delivering our veggie boxes for four weeks so they've just carried on laying. Some days we've had eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, quiche and bacon & egg pie have been back on the menu. Normally the eggs are all presold and we only get the rejects but this year I plan to make sure we get a dozen first, then sell the rest. I must get on to buying more chooks.......

...we've been eating lots of cake - I've made this Fruit Crumble cake three times in the last week - twice with blueberries and once with apricots

...we've been making the most of the stone-fruit season, these are the apricots from our tree - they were delicious and all gone now for another year 


...I've been enjoying finding snippets of time for sewing here and there, sneaking in and shutting the door even because there's just no peace during the school holidays now is there?! In the last couple of weeks I've made this summer top for me, boxer shorts (just like his Dad's) for the farm-boy, and a reversible bucket hat - also for the farm-boy. I've got two hats to make now with detailed instructions from the girls - they're going to be one-of-a-kind, definitely not something you'd see in the store ahem....the sort of thing that will require a blog post all of their own.....

Monday, 14 January 2013

Summer fun

Having lived in London for nearly eight years, one of the things that I never fail to notice now we're home is the sea. We are really fortunate to live where we do, only 30 minutes drive from the capital city, ten minutes drive to a gorgeous swimming beach, and a mere two minutes from a tidal inlet. Before we went to London I  didn't appreciate where we lived, the sea and coast was just there, I was in too much of a hurry to notice the beauty of it. Life is still too hurried for my liking at times but without fail I soak it all in now, the variations from day to day, season to season are incredible.
It's school holidays here and needing to get out we headed to the inlet with our favourite people and the dogs. The kids love hanging out together and we don't see them nearly as often as we'd like. They had fun hunting for sea dwellers and this time they found a lot of tiny sea snails, the highlight though was spotting a stingray sunbathing in the shallows. The dogs had a great time swimming for sticks and doing their doggie things, and I really enjoyed hanging out with my bestie. A lovely way to spend a summer's morning.

Sunday, 13 January 2013



"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013" via Che and Fidel.
 Ella: the farm-girl, keeping watch over the shearing of her pet-lamb Digger.
Lucia: the beach-kid and lover of all sea dwellers - she's grinning like that because she's got a fist full of wee sea snails that's she's trying to convince me to let her bring home
Marcus: this farm-boy loves dogs, and Nellie the shearer's dog is pretty keen on the attention too

Friday, 11 January 2013

Sheep shearing

Let me start by saying we are novices at this farming business - neither of us or our parents were brought up on a farm so it's difficult to explain what forces drew us here, there's just something in my makeup. Perhaps I'm channelling my great-great grandparents, they were all farmers and pioneers. Although the last four and a half years have not been easy, right here is where I've been the most grounded and happy, and our dreams for the future involve "real" farming, the kind you can make a living from. 

Each year we brace ourselves for shearing the sheep - I'm not talking a lot of sheep, generally less than 15. In previous years it has gone something like this......late January finally get round to organising the shearer to come, on the day build a make-shift pen arrangement out of spare gates and twine, spend two hours chasing sheep around the paddock with stress levels rising because they are just so crazy stupid that we can't pen them, get Derek the shearer (aged in his late 70's) to help when he shows up, finally get most of them penned and drag/carry the last remaining sheep who refused to budge from her spot on the steep bank amongst the pine trees. Then, in the fading light, Derek gets to work and we make plans for how we can make the whole experience easier and less stressful for the next year.

Well, what a difference there was this year! We are much earlier for a start, we were aiming for December so we're not too far out.  What made the biggest difference was the brand-spanking-new-almost-finished stockyards that my clever farmer-husband built. There were still a few spare gates and twine involved but the majority of it was there and with some clever shepherding the sheep were penned in just under an hour. We used a different shearer this year whose gear was all set up on the back of a trailer, which I might add slotted seamlessly into the race built in the yards - perfect design! It took less than two hours to shear our 20 and my neighbour's two pets.  And instead of feeling stressed and exhausted and needing to take three hungry and exhausted children back to the house, I lazed around in the paddock in the glorious sun and snapped away with my camera while the farm kids watched and played - not one request for food, it was that absorbing! I think we've cracked this shearing gig, only a few minor adjustments needed for next year - your presence and some gates on the yards please and thank you farmer-husband xx


 Photos from top to bottom:
1. The most unflattering 'before' shot
2. A ewe getting her haircut
3. A lamb's turn - feisty wee things they all were
4. The first sheep shorn - looking very embarrassed and feeling rather naked
5. The flock feeling a lot cooler, a bit lighter, and filling their tummies again

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Joining in with Ginny .
I'm nearly finished my Mae shrug, only an inch more to go so hopefully that'll be off the needles today. The weather might help with my quest... it has turned from stunning sunny blue skies to grey, windy and wet, an indoor sort of day. Now that's a Kiwi summer for you!
There's not been a lot of reading going on here....I've been spending too much time fiddling about in this space, there's just so much to learn isn't there?! I was the lucky recipient of my good friend's holiday reading magazine stash though so I have been flicking through them. Also, I have just dipped into Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway,  it might be just the inspiration I need to sort out some areas of the garden.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Garden notes

1 & 2: Garden beds
3: cherry tomatoes
4: yellow courgettes
5: lettuce, runner beans and calendula
6: bush beans 
7: apple trees
8: pears
9: Cameusa dell'obregrat apple
10: Feijoa flowers

The garden has been busy doing its thing, largely taking caring of itself with a bit of weeding and watering input from me. We've been eating lettuce, snowpeas, basil and the odd yellow cherry tomato but soon we'll be adding courgettes, spring onions and beans to that list. I also have peppers, an eggplant, watermelon and carrots coming along. Branches in the home orchard are groaning under the weight of fruit - especially the apples. They are in their fourth season now and they obviously like where they're planted. The crabapple tree is loaded again and the giant pear trees are fruiting despite their vigorous chainsaw pruning over winter. No fruit on the Damson plums though, note to self - don't prune in the winter! I'm excited to see lots of flowers on the feijoas, fingers crossed we'll have lots of autumn fruit. I'm deliberately not mentioning the bank orchard, it seems to have disappeared into the meadow.....must add that to the to-do list.