Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Yesterday morning was hectic, my brother's ship berthed at 0915.  We had to get the kids to school and get ourselves into town during rush hour.

Out the door at 8am, drive the Man Child and his enormous hockey bag full of sticks, shin pads and prized uniform far enough away from school that nobody sees him being dropped off, but close enough that he doesn't have to hump the whole kit and caboodle too far.  It's a fine balance being the mother of a teenaged boy!

Back up the hill to the WG's friends house to pick her up, oh and her Mother wants a ride to the local pony club so she can do her volunteer work with the disabled, ugh, in a hurry but how can I refuse some poor little disabled kids their weekly ride?  Drop the girls at their school (by now it's 8.30) back up the road, around the corner and drop friends Mum to Pony Club.  Finally we are on our way!

On the Motorway I amuse myself by taking pictures out the window while the hubs makes dire predictions about our ability to get to the wharf in time...

Traffic is moving, stop/start but moving.  I am serene...

Look how calm the water is!  There is a fine mist over the harbor and that's Pt Chevalier, so we are closer and still moving.  I remain indifferent to the hubs predictions of disaster.

Just as we are getting off the motorway, I get a text from Little Brother, they're off and at Shed 23.  I text back that we are mere minutes away.  And we were, 5 minutes later my LB is hugging the stuffing out of me and I am fighting back tears of joy that he's here hugging me.

We stop at the Wynyard Quarter for coffee and a catch up.  Last year when he was here bringing his fiancĂ© and their respective children to see us (2nd marriage they have 1 boy and 3 girls between them, the eldest is 11 soon) the Wynyard Quarter was still being constructed.

On a walk about the hubs and bro found this incredibly exciting:

I don't know if it's a boat car or a car boat?

We headed out to Middle Brother's house and once we were together we called our Father to wish him a happy 70th birthday.  Then we set about planning the execution of our trip to Kaitaia.  We plan to travel in convoy, there is food to buy and the discussion about exactly what food to buy were extensive!  LB is a butcher so meat was paramount to him, it's got to be quality and he couldn't see the issue with having a spit roast lamb dinner following a roast beef sandwich lunch.  To him it's a completely different beast, to us it's two lots of roasted meat in a row...

The beer was flowing, the conversation wide and varied and we sat chatting until I realized it was 9pm, half an hour past the WG's bedtime.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Busy as a Bee

Today was all about cleaning, I got my kitchen/laundry floors scrubbed, cleaned the grease filter in the range hood, the bathroom scrubbed within an inch of it's life, bathroom cabinets cleaned out, picked up the kids from school and cooked dinner.

Having written it out it doesn't seem a lot really, but it's autumn cleaning time, you know that deep intensive cleaning that you do every 3-6 months.

That's dinner, a quick and on fly version of Thai chicken cocoanut curry and rice.  I seem to have run out of or misplaced my green curry paste so I substituted red, the WG hates hot curry so there's a can of cocoanut cream and a dash of lime in it, as well as fish and soya sauce.  Some red onion, finely chopped mushrooms (finely chopped because if the hubs knows they are there he will object) and some frozen veg because the WG left the veg box on the floor in the laundry on Friday and my dogs ate them overnight while I was at work!

Yes they ate the fruit and veges,  they did leave the leek, onions. oranges and potatoes but everything else is gone burger! They really love banana's best but happily ate the rest too.  Weird dogs! I found the remains spread all over the laundry floor and two very burpy dogs greeted me at the door.

The Henna tattoo on my hand got darker overnight.  When I scraped off the paste yesterday it was yellow, overnight it went brown.

I got lots of interest in it when I went out today to get coffee.  I have a weakness for BP Wildbean cafe's mocha and we were out of milk so I popped up to the local BP.  The barista grabbed my hand to look at it, she wanted to know all about it.

My youngest brother arrives tomorrow with his fiancĂ©.  They live in Australia and came over on a cruise ship for Dad's birthday, and to have a holiday.

I'm excited to see them again.  I will be picking them up at the port tomorrow morning after the kids are dropped off at school.

My middle brother called to make arrangements for a get together and when we are together we will sort out the plan for Dad's birthday bash.  It's going to be a big weekend!

The African flower scarf hasn't been forgotten here is how it's shaping up.  I decided to do a single row and I am working on making the scalloped edges straight.

The monochrome bags (there are two on the go) are nearly done for the trip up.  I shall put Easter Eggs in them as treats for the grown ups.

I think when my niece arrives from Tauranga to stay for the school holidays, I shall get her and the WG working on some dyed eggs.  I found a great tutorial for silk dyed eggs on Pintrest using old silk ties from second hand stores.  I'd quite like to try it.

The girls like doing projects and it keeps them from begging to go to the movies...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The school Gala

Despite a somewhat dicey weather forecast, the rain held off and the day was warm and dry if a little cloudy.  

The wee girl goes to what is essentially a rural school just outside the suburbs, cows roam the fields surrounding and there is a winery next door.  It's very green and eco friendly.  They have a couple of goats, worm farm, orchard and grow their own vegetables.

We had to be at the gala first thing as the wee girl was playing at 10:05 in the marimba group.  They were on "Breakfast" on TV 1 on Friday morning along with the rest of their enviro friendly school to get a little publicity for the Gala to raise funds for new computers.  Apparently it worked because the school was packed with people.

The WG and I got henna tattoo's, I am on holiday so I don't need to worry about going to work with orange flowers all over my hand.

The man child managed to find a group of friends, all ex students of the school like himself and they all roamed the grounds together doing teenage stuff which comprised mostly of avoiding their parents at all costs.

We participated in two raffles and won ... well nothing.

We ran into other parents we knew, colleagues from both our workplaces as Emergency Services were on display to support the school,  my nieces and nephews were there.  Both my children attend school with various cousins, even though we are spread throughout this suburb.  Who says the big city is full of strangers?

I managed to find a book called "Every Day Slow Cooker recipes" which I intend to put to good use.

After lunch at the sausage sizzle, we wandered around the stalls once more and then headed home to rest.  It was a big morning!

Getting Organized on the domestic front

I am now officially on Annual Leave although I worked till 7am this morning.  I had quite a lot of leave accrued, so I'm taking April off!

I gave the monochrome "Ombre Basket" to a friend at work who has been hinting that she'd like some of my work, she adores it.  It's nice to have your work appreciated.  I started another last night before work and I have nearly finished it this evening.

A search through the racks at Spotlight turned up a nice charcoal grey although you can't really see it in that photo, a pewter grey and a silver.  I'll take a better one when I've finished and hopefully in better light.

The WG has been wanting more soup with the weather being so nasty so after dinner tonight I made another leek, potato and bacon soup.  Seeing as the two litres I made last time was devoured in one afternoon, I got out the big gun, my 5 litre stock pot and made double the quantity.  My taste testers did their thing as it cooled to be divided up into containers, they had a bowl each and said it was very tasty.  Lets hope I can get it to the freezer this time!

I didn't just mash this batch like I did the last, I blended it with my stick blender so it's thick and warming, I also had time to skim it.  Blending also ensures the potato freezes ok.  When it's heated, we'll stir some cream through it and voila, hot fresh soup.  The kids will be able to take it to school next term in their flasks, or have it after a cold, rainy hockey practice after school to warm them up.

I have a bacon bone in the freezer that I will use to make up some vegetable soup as well with barley, split peas and fresh vegetables like pumpkin, celery, kumara (sweet potato), carrots and parsnip.

While I am on holiday I plan to put some meals in the freezer.  It will help the Hubs out on evenings that I work.  Part of my drive to be better organized.

Tomorrow we have the Wee Girl's school gala, then I will do some baking to fill up the tins for the last week of school.  I plan to make brownies and some cupcakes.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Monochrome Ombre Basket

Ta daaaa!

The other day I mentioned the basket I was making to take up North.  The Ombre Basket by Crochet in Color.

What I would really like to do, is make this with more greys graduating from charcoal through to white.

I made this with a few modifications.  I don't know what worsted weight is (if anyone can tell me please leave a comment) so I winged it with some inexpensive acrylic 8 ply from Spotlight, their Thorobred, in Black, White and Grey.  I used two strands and a 7mm hook.  Using about half a 100gm ball of each colour, slightly more of the black.  I decided to use the black at the top because the white would get grubby just because of the oil we all have on our hands.

It turned out 23 cm (9 inches) deep, 30 cm (12 inches) across.  As you can see it holds itself upright and is about the same dimensions as the one by Crochet in Color.

It only took a few days because I have been working, given the right circumstances I think I could whip one up in a day and a half.  It's not a complicated pattern and once you have the bottom done, it's single crochet all the way to the top.

I'm actually considering this one to a friend and whipping up another to take up north.  Or maybe a couple because I am sure when my stepmother sees it, she's going to want one for herself.

This would make an awesome basket for works in progress providing they aren't too big.

So in short.  If you are looking for a quick and easy bag to make, this is it!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Autumn Storms

That's the shade cloth over the deck.  Not a lot of use for it the past two days with the crazy wet weather we've had.  At least it's not cold, but that isn't stopping Cassie Cat from fighting for space on my lap as I try to crochet.  She's determined that she must come inside all wet, with nasty cold paws and dry off on me.

My African Flower scarf is all but completed, but I'm taking a break from it briefly to make a basket to take up to Kaitaia next week when the family gathers to celebrate my father's 70th birthday.  I first saw it on Pintrest, the Ombre Basket by Crochet in Colour.  Mine is monochromatic, inspired by Aunty Mum's blanket.  Black, grey and white.  It's coming together quickly with a size 7mm hook and two strands of 8 ply crocheted together.

Here's hoping these weather systems will pass before we head North.  We're lucky in that the last major flooding where my parents live on the Hokianga happened during Cyclone Bola in 87, the rest of Northland hasn't fared so well this week with everything North of Whangarei being isolated by slips, downed trees and flooding.  There's always a chance of getting stuck up there when weather like this happens.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Happy St Patricks day!

It's 9am and everyone is sleeping.  Last night we went out adventuring till late.  The husband had a rare night off i.e. he wasn't "on call" for fires, which meant we could go out and not worry about having our evening interrupted by the pager.

We took the children out to play mini golf, something they've expressed an interest in doing over the years.  My hockey playing children were somewhat confused by the golf putter but adjusted well, the man child got a couple of holes in one.  The match took about an hour and was won by the hubs who has previous experience playing golf but professes to be useless at putting.  The man child came second and the wee girl 3rd.  I brought up the rear as usual my lack of competitive spirit and skill at things sporty no doubt had a bearing.

Then we tootled down to the Wynyard Quarter for dinner.  The man child showed a great interest in the "hot" girls walking down Quay St to Vector Arena for the Taylor Swift Concert.  We had an awesome meal and got home around 10pm, everyone was in bed before 11pm.  And now I am up alone as they slumber on.

Spotlight are having a sale and whilst wandering looking for odds and ends for my squares (I have 30 now and I've used up quite a bit of my stash) I stumbled upon this:

Moda Vera Willowy, 100% Viscose for $4 a ball.

It was calling to me to play with it, I swear!  I've never used 100% viscose.  It has a pretty sheen and it's soft.  So beautiful and soft!

I had to buy some, had to!

So I got 3 balls, the pink, green and white.

I brought them home...

I sat and contemplated...

What does this want to be? I asked myself.  I thought and thought.

Flowers, definitely flowers.

And so I hit on African Flowers.  They are unbelievably soft and pretty.  I put aside my squares to make them.  This is going to be my scarf this winter.  Two hexagons wide and as long as I can make it to wind around my neck.

There is a darker purple I might have to go back for as a contrast, I haven't decided yet.

It's going to be just warm enough for Auckland and I have wanted a new scarf for a while now.  The wee girl has her own flower scarf but this stuff is so pretty and so lovely to work with, I might have to make her another!  It glides over the hook and feels absolutely silken as it runs though my fingers to create the tension.  I'm in love!

My days off have been busy this week.  With my new sew pouch I have created a cellphone sock in cotton.  fiddly to work with but I think it looks pretty good.

It looks better on the phone but I couldn't take a picture of it with the phone, while it was on the phone.  I could have gone and borrowed one of the other phones but they were all tucked up on their chargers, in the bedrooms of their slumbering owners and if I have learned one thing being a mother, it's to let sleeping husbands and children lie, if I ever want time to myself!

And of course today is St Patricks Day.

May your pockets be heavy, your heart be light and good luck pursue you each morning and night.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pranks and the no sew wallet

Where I work, we are often busy and the work is mentally taxing.  As a consequence we make our fun where and as we can.

One of my colleagues has been away at Police College on his Sgts course and we discovered he'd left his drawer unlocked.  Last year we got hold of his diary and covered it in pictures of the "Thunderbirds", you'd think he'd have learned!  So now his diary is covered in pictures of Justin Bieber.  We sealed it with clear contact and I crocheted a pretty "cosy" for his diary, in pink, complete with a large pink flower.  He's back at work tonight and we cannot wait!

Now my contribution to our little prank was literally dreamed up, literally and crocheted in the space of a couple of hours.  It's basically a wallet for his diary.  I crocheted a chain of 50, then single crocheted all the way around the chain to end up with a rectangle. Moved into granny stitch and within a few hours I had produced the A4 diary cosy!

When I got home from work I started again with my leftover gelato cotton to make something smaller. To reproduce it but this time taking a bit more notice of what I was doing.

See the bottom?  By crocheting around the entire chain I made a base.  I then switched to tr and crocheted two into a single stitch at the corners.  Effectively crocheting in the round.  Then I switched to grannies.  The key was having the base chain in a multiple of 3.  This little wallet began life as a foundation ch of 28, with one being used as the first sc when I began to crochet into the foundation chain.

In various sizes this would make an awesome Ipad or Kindle cover, cellphone sock, laptop sleeve, coin purse, make up bag or even a large messenger type bag.  The possibilities are endless and I plan to explore them.

You could use any type of stitch you want, I just decided granny stitch is one of my quickest to do and it grows so quickly.  I'd like to try all sorts of different things and once I have the method for creating the bottom perfected I will post a tutorial.

This one is going to be a make up bag to carry my seldom used lipstick and mascara about in.  I'm not big on make up so a tiny bag like this will do nicely.

I will make a liner and sew it in.  If nothing else my rudimentary sewing skills are getting a good work out lately.

The edging along the top is crab stitch, something I have never done before as an edging but am liking a lot.  It would look amazing on a headband.

It took me some time and patience to figure it out, there are instructions in my book the A to Z of crochet but I have seen instructions on line as well.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Stash busting

Making the granny stripe for the wee girl, and various other blankets, has left me with a stash of dribs and drabs of wool, some the better part of a ball, others just a small amount.  I was surfing yesterday evening and found this alternative granny on one of my favorite blogs, The Little Room of Rachel.  This is exactly what I need to get rid of some of those bits and pieces.

It looks a little like a Maltese Cross.  When you join the squares, the holes create a diamond pattern.

I started straight away and before bedtime, I had a dozen 4 inch granny squares.

They are extremely quick to make and much easier than they appear.  No fiddling around with different colours at this point, I am making solid blocks of colour.  They are also firmer than your average granny square.

I love Granny Squares because they are quick and awesomely portable.

It's also a bit warm still to be draping myself in wool as I crochet.

I'm also conscious I have a couple of unfinished projects on the go.  I have an Attic 24 striped bag to sew handles on to help keep my wool stash tidy.  I had my granny bucket bag to line and the blue and white granny stripe to carry on with when it cools down.

I've gone off the idea of the top, the bamboo cotton will be put to good use though.

So I got to work and lined the granny bucket with a remnant of dark green material I had in a cupboard.

I made a basic barrel bag open at one end.

Turned it inside out and sewed it in with the right side showing inside the bag.

I'm not the tidiest sewer so I plan to get some binding tape or pretty binding edging and sew it over my hand stitching at the top.

I made it fairly large, I wish I could give you measurements but I did it by eye seeing as I had no idea how to get the diameter of the circle base.

Somewhere in Auckland my math teacher is shaking her head and saying, I told you that you would need to know about Pi one day in the future!

The husband was going to help me (he's a math wiz!), but he's been busy all week, doing station visits both Monday and Tuesday.  On Sunday he spent the entire day at a fund raising gala for a new volunteer fire fighters station.  So I went ahead and did it myself.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Potato, Bacon and Leek Soup experiment

I get a box of fresh fruit and vegetables delivered every week, it saves me time and opening the box every Friday is like a little bit of Christmas.

Anyhoo, the last few weeks I have been receiving leeks.  I usually use leeks in place of onions because the WG doesn't like strong onion flavors and I found years ago if I substituted leeks in various things like stir fry, she'd happily eat it.  So I have 3 leeks currently and there are only so many times you can make a stir fry before the family starts demanding something different.  What to do?

Why Potato, Bacon and Leek soup of course!

Many years ago in the 1980's even, when cooking at school for girls was not just expected but compulsory (boys did metalwork and woodwork, girls did sewing and cooking) amongst the pinwheel scones, fudge and quiches, I made cream of leek soup and I recall it was ridiculously easy and rather tasty!

Now you might wonder why on a beautiful, hot autumn day,  I am making soup?  It's for school lunches.  The WG has a thermos and loves nothing better than taking my home made soups to school.  I usually make a huge pot and freeze it in portions in ziplock bags, she throws it in a pot, heats it up, pops it in her thermos and she has a hot nourishing lunch on a cold winters day.  She loves vegetable, mushroom, pumpkin and tomato.  If we run out I usually have some cuppa soup sachets on hand to tide her over.

A little googling found me this recipe for leek and potato soup and I decided to add some left over bacon, you know, because I just HAVE to be different!

So I cubed up my bacon and fried it a little in my two litre pot, then drained it on a paper towel.

I chopped up my leek the recipe calls for two leeks but this leek was going for some sort of giant leek medal, it was HUGE.  I halved it lengthways, then halved the halfs to make it smaller.  Then cut it up into small slices.

I threw the butter and leeks back into my two litre pot and heated it slowly to soften the leeks.

While that was going on I chopped up my potatoes into small cubes.

Once the leeks were softened, I put a couple of stock cubes in, a litre of water, the potatoes and the bacon, gave it a stir and brought it to the boil.

The butter was sitting on the top at that point so it's not the most attractive picture.  Once it boiled I turned down the heat, by moving it to a smaller element, I have gas and the front element is the largest so a back ring with a smaller burner simmers a large pot nicely.

My house smelt wonderful!

Twenty minutes later I turned off the heat, I mashed the soup because I wanted a thicker soup.  I think I may have gone a little overboard on the butter hmmm, I'm intending to freeze it so I'll be able to removed that as it solidifies.  Which will give me a clearer soup which can be heated in the microwave and have milk or cream added.

I made up a bowl for the WG as she'll be arriving home soon from school, I stirred some cream through it and had a taste.  Yum!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

After the storm

This morning was eerie, for the past two days we've had stormy weather and this morning is was clear, still, cool and quiet.  As I was leaving work the sun was rising out over the harbor, there was a subtle reflection of the sunrise in the western skies.

I took this shot with my phone as I was walking to my car.

A reminder of the stillness and an early morning sunrise and one of the first of Autumn.  I will miss Summer, it's my favorite time of year, the holidays with the kids and the husband, the long nights and lazy days.

Autumn brings it's own joys, we don't get the wild seasonal foliage with deep colours but we do get warm days and cool evenings.  A welcome break from the heat of Summer, the evenings are still long and I like the lead in to the bleakness of Winter.

I got a few hours sleep, then spent the afternoon on a prototype project.

Remember that stitch I was learning a few days ago?

Here is a little clutch I made of it for the wee girl.

My sewing really sucks but for a first effort not too bad.

I used plastic canvas to give it more form and my needle must be a little blunt because it didn't like all those layers.

I can do this better, I WILL do this better because I like the concept and I have two magnetic clips to find a use for.