Finally the time has come for the reveal in this the second of Mallory Hoffman's & my Artistic Challenges.
After our initial Artistic Challenge, Crush on Copper, we decided because of the time constraints that December brings (especially when you have a very important wedding taking place just 7 days before Christmas!!) we'd keep this months challenge simple.
The plan was that we'd highlight the extreme seasonal differences that our localities half a world apart afford us at Christmas time. You'd be surprised at the things you don't think of when you take the climate where you live for granted - the seemingly small differences that aren't due to any customs as such at all, but rather dictated by the weather as to what is available.
This summer, so far we have been blessed with incredible weather - so knowing that Christmas day was likely to be sunny & hot I focussed planning for our family Christmas to be primarily outdoors....& for the food to be kept simple in order that everyone could relax & enjoy themselves.
The weather came to the party providing us with a bright blue sky & fluffy white cotton balls...until about 9.30am when they had all but disappeared & leaving us with bright hot sun.
Just as well I had planned to borrow my brothers portable gazebo so the kids, big, small & 4 legged, had somewhere to play safely away from the harmful rays!
Those that had prepared the salads & desserts were quite happy to sit back & relax for a bit while others attended to the BBQ.
I truly do expect that this was the first time my wonderful sister in law Jackie had really sat down for longer than 5 minutes in the last month!
The array of salads - with a noodle salad on the far end (with a dressing that is to die for!!). Next to that was the most delicious Potato Salad prepared by the former 'terrible teen'& budding chef, Michaela! Mum's stuffing which is an absolute must, & the pièce de résistance of any event that I can manage to get her to make it for resides firmly at the centre of attention, even with BBQ'd meats! A fresh lettuce salad & a lovely Pasta salad finished off the array.
It was kind of cool that the lettuces & cabbage were picked fresh out of our garden that morning.
The meat maestro's at work - my beautiful new daughter in law Kerry, & my eldest son Jeremy.
Offering refreshment to the vege garden!!
Jackie's wonderful Pavlova with fresh berries on top...
Fresh fruit salad
For us the Christmas celebration runs over two days. December 26th, Boxing Day, is also my Mum's Birthday. This year she turned a sprightly 73 years young. While the family were together again on Boxing Day a few of us took the chance to go to the beach together. It was an overcast day & a little cooler than the day before - but the beach was calm & wonderful. Even if we did take a 10 kilometre round walk through Bottle Lake Plantation.....
The grandpuppies enjoyed it too....
I cheated & finally decorated the tree on Christmas eve, mainly because I wanted it to feel like Christmas for my nieces & nephew. May I add right here that around 11pm on Christmas eve is a darn bad time to discover that the light set you chose out of the three available & which you didn't check before you put them on the tree, aren't working.....
More in keeping with this Christmas theme would have been this, a Feijoa in flower.
Maybe that is an idea for next year :)
As I mentioned in my previous post, this was a blessed Christmas. Surrounded by all those that I love meant more to me than anything - it also offered up a wonderful surprise. But more about that later!!
No material gift could be better than the gift of spending Christmas day surrounded by the people in your life whom you love. Not a single thing.
The spirit of Christmas simply can not be bought in a store. Yesterday as I watched older cousins interact with the younger ones, a brother & a sister in law work together at the BBQ, fathers & sons setting up a gazebo, an Aunt & her niece figuring out a new cell phone & everyone scurrying around in between preparing food I counted my blessings - all 16 of them, family & extended family.
We kept the food & preparation simple & the shared workload light. It allowed us all time to enjoy one another.
Gabriela made me some beautiful candles as a Christmas present & Christmas night we watched TV by candle light.It was a perfect end to a beautiful day.
I was kind of hoping that yesterday would slip past in the rush of getting ready for the wedding this weekend. It didn't though. With Dad's passing so close to Christmas & happening on the day in between his brothers & oldest grandsons birthdays it's not likely that it will ever truly 'slip by'.
Instead yesterday, more than ever, I missed my Dad's presence in this world & mourned the fact that he isn't here to see his younger grandson Kieran get married this weekend to the lovely Kerry, or to see my oldest son celebrate his 33rd Birthday today. I wish he was here to see so many things in this wonderful expanding family of mine.
As I looked at the star sprinkled sky last night & marvelled once again how incredibly beautiful it was I knew that Dad, who always had such a great appreciation for the simple things in life (along with a decent red wine!), wouldn't want me to be sad. ... & that was why I chose to read Mary Frye's "Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep" at his funeral. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves.
I guess that trying to compose my speech for the wedding is bringing back memories of four years ago too. Then again Dad would have been the one that I asked to speak.
Oh yeah - I can see the twinkle in his eye so clearly now, as his mind would have progressed through all the possible tales he could have told about Kieran to a captive audience. He would have had such fun with that!!
I'm absolutely loving this song, so I thought I'd share.
In these days of almost instant everything, including contact with people half a world away, it's easy to forget that a wee pond called the Pacfic Ocean separates New Zealand & the USA by 9600km (6000 miles).
Two Western countries, culturally very similar & alike in many ways - but so very different in others. Not least of all the fact that we are seasonal opposites.
Never are the seasonal differences more obvious than at Christmas time. The early settlers to New Zealand brought all of their European traditions with them but over the years they adapted & evolved. I guess the lack of snow in Summer may have forced that issue somewhat ;)
For this months artistic growth challenge Mallory Hoffman (Rosebud101) & I have decided to compile photo journals of those Christmas contrasts.
I've never experienced a white Christmas although I grew up knowing of them as that was the stuff of my Mum's childhood. I well remember the very traditional English Christmas dinners - roast turkey, roast ham, roast potatoes, green beans, corn, carrots, stuffing, cranberry sauce & gravy - Christmas pudding, fruit mince pies, trifle, brandy sauce, cream & ice cream. Everyone used to fall alseep mid afternoon after that lot....well, the adults did & the kids had FUN!
Then somehow new potatoes & kumara (sweet potatoes) snuck in, someone decided they didn't like turkey that much & it got replaced with chicken, the hams became cold hams..how about a salad with that, it's too hot for all those roast veges. Before you knew it fresh fruit salad & Pavlova started replacing the trifle & then; "Oh the heck with it lets have a BBQ & make things easy". You get the picture...
Of course food isn't the only difference - but you'll have to wait until the reveal on the 27th December, 2010 to see the rest of the differences between the way Christchurch New Zealand & Minnesota, USA ( a mere 13,221km or 8216 miles apart) celebrate the holiday season.
Lets see what Mallory has to say about this challenge by visiting her blog!
All day on Thursday 25th November I felt as if it should be a holiday. I woke up with the sense that it was a day off, I was even surprised that the shops were open when I went out for a short drive to get a coffee.... (feel free to insert eyeroll here!!).
I suspect it comes from being connected by my interests to so many people in the USA. Social networking can sometimes make you forget where you live. Well, if I ignore the fact that 90% of the people who are my Facebook friends are talking about snow storms & ice while we are experiencing the most wonderfully warm & sunny Spring in a long time I might forget where I live....but you get my drift ;)
Regardless of it's origins Thanksgiving seems to me to be a great celebration. In comparison to Christmas where it appears to have become all about the giving & receiving of gifts, Thanksgiving is all about what the name implies. Giving thanks & taking a moment, or a day, surrounded by those that are important to you to reflect on all we have to be thankful or grateful for.
Not so strange then that often those things for which we are grateful also happen to be the things that money can't buy.
Whether it was giving thanks to God for the safe arrival in a new colony, celebrating the survival of a harsh winter or abundant crops safely harvested in order to ensure survival through to the next season - no amount of money could have brought them about. It took things both bigger & at the same time a lot more basic.
There is a whole lot that money can't buy - a clear sunny day, a starlit sky, sunrises, sunsets & pretty much anything to do with nature, joy, inner peace, self confidence, love, happiness (no particular order here), a babies first smile...or any of a babies or childs 'firsts' for that matter. In fact it seems to me that there is a whole lot more important things that it can't buy - than there are material things that it can.
Friends that are there 'no matter what' rank really high on the 'what money can't buy' list to me. Many are friends that I have never met, cyber friends who take the time to email or pop by this blog of mine & just read, or leave words of wisdom, understanding, encouragement or even just a brief comment. These are the people I am grateful for - they keep me grounded & gently guide me back on track when I'm feeling a little lost. Over the last 3 months I've been feeling quite a lot lost ;)
I realised on Thanksgiving that these people deserve a special shout out here in blogland. It's all very well me giving thanks & being grateful - but how are you to know unless I tell you?
You know what this means don't you? It means I am going to do some sewing. This is kind of scary in it's own way as I haven't made a garment in years. Oh I've done repairs & a little patchwork & appliqué work but as far as constructing a complete garment goes - I think the last dress pattern I bought was probably about a size 4 year old.....for Gabriela, who is now 13.
What it also means is that somewhere along the way I have become blissfully unaware of the price of dress patterns, so much so in fact that when Gabriela was trying on prospective dresses to wear to her brothers wedding & suggested that she really would like me to make something for her I blithely said 'yes'. Admittedly the dress she liked didn't have a lot to it & we could both see area's where we would improve on both the style & design, but I may not have been so amenable if I'd known a pattern to get the basic shape was going to cost me $20.00!
Then there was the fabric, & the fact that I couldn't find where my tape measures were & needed new machine needles. Yep, it would have been half the price to actually buy the dress we saw. But then again she wouldn't have a unique dress, tailored completely to her tastes & made especially for her by her Mum. And that last part was the key point, she wanted me to make something for her in an age where kids are increasingly all about labels & what stores their peers shop at this little sweety wanted me to make her a dress.
I'm flattered & honoured. Lets hope that I live up to expectations!!
It is said that only a bad workman blames their tools. To that I say 'bah humbug'.
For as many tasks that can be adequately completed with basic or cheap tools, there are as many again that can't. Besides often 'adequate' just isn't good enough to do the job to the standard required...or with any great deal of ease.
I've always believed that you get what you pay for, but at the same time will freely admit that certain items will get such limited use (or wear) that it isn't worth paying top dollar for them. Shoes & tools do not come into that category.
After struggling with a cheap disk cutter I was blessed when an unexpected opportunity to buy a better disk cutter came up.
Suffice to say that I jumped at the chance. It had it's inaugural run today & I found myself muttering such things as 'oh, yes!', 'man this is brilliant' & 'how easy was that!'...amongst sighs of satisfaction & calling it's predecessor a whole heap unflattering names in memory of the frustration it caused me, not to mention the etched copper sheets I destroyed while trying to use it.
There is absolutely no comparison between the Swanstrom Disk Cutter & it's cheap & not very cheerful predecessor. If pushed the closest I could probably come would be to compare a Rolls Royce with a Fiat...or better still a Harley with a push bike....a very cheap & nasty push bike.
This piece of equipment is an absolute dream to use. I did stop short of singing "Swanee - how I love ya, how I love ya, My dear old swanee..." but only just!!
Truth be told I love it, in fact I think I want to sleep with it!!
Today is the date that Mallory Hoffman of For the Love of Beads & I chose to reveal what we have been creating for our Crush on Copper, the first of our monthly challenges. The only guideline in this challenge was that our copper wire had to be used in the form of a "Love-me Knot" & after that pretty much anything was allowed.
Since I am nowhere near as organised as Mallory I haven't shown a teaser, but I feel the urge to do so now & prolong the suspense :)
Somewhere in the chats we had about this particular challenge we decided that we'd deviate from making a jewelry item. Easier said than done as the second I finished those Love-me -Knots I had a load of ideas for using them in bracelets or as an earring component & then, for the life of me drew a blank as to what else I could make using them that wasn't jewelry.
I found the Love-me- Knots challenging to use in their own way as they are very structured & I tend to favour more relaxed shapes & styles. The temptation to make earrings or a bracelet in a nice symmetrical, repetitive design with them was almost too much....I did say 'almost'!
And just because teasing is so much fun, I'm going to do it again.
In the end I managed to resist temptation. I looked closely at the piece of copper that I showed in the announcement of this challenge & decided to go with something that was already etched onto that sheet.....if only I could find a way to cut it out.
One of my stumbling blocks has been that the copper sheet I have been able to source locally is a rather substantial .7mm thick (it would work out at around a 21 gauge - if that gauge existed), & even after etching is a little on the thick side to cut with shears or use in the cheap disk cutter that were the only tools I had available at the time. In the end I purchased some jewelers saw blades & I was away laughing.
Tease number three about to appear, of course at this stage you could just scroll down & see the end result & spoil all my fun .....
I promise not to keep you in suspense (or suspenders as I used to be fond of saying) for too much longer.
I decided that my components could be put to good use as a key ring, blithely ignoring the fact that I didn't have the required 'ring' part on which to hang keys. I figured I could make one easily enough.
Yeah - right! Last night while hammering my nicely coiled ring flat so that keys could be slid onto it, I also managed to hammer the edge of my index finger. Hello to a nice big blood blister,ouch!! That put the kibosh on any further hammering. Subsequently my coiled ring became just a ring as I had to trim it back.
Without further ado I'll show you my effort in this challenge..
Meet the "I Need Kelp" key ring
I've learned a lot from this first challenge. First & foremost - keep your fingers well away from hammers. Secondly, even though only a bad workwoman blames her tools, the lack of decent ones & a scarcity of supplies can be somewhat limiting.
Just as well my new disk cutter arrived today then isn't it?!
I want to talk about earthquakes. Yeah, I know - so last month, or was it the month before?
Actually, in all truth, the last thing I want to talk about is earthquakes, because right now in this city it is a subject that pretty much comes up in every conversation you have with anyone no matter where you go. Everyone has been affected in one way or another & many continue to be so with every aftershock.
I don't want to sound as if I am droning on & complaining - I'm not.
Believe it or not I used to get a kick out of earthquakes. Christchurch has always felt the effects of bigger quakes centred way down the bottom of the South Island. They'd probably register here at around a 3 magnitude & they never bothered me apart from giving me a bit of a thrill.
But, as of 3 hours ago, we're at aftershock #2934 since September 4th &, although I haven't actually felt 2/3 of those, like many, many others I am over it. To be honest I don't know what I feel any more....apart from confused about how I feel ;)
What I do know though is that we have been so incredibly blessed on so very many levels & I will be eternally grateful for that. These pesky aftershocks aren't stopping me living as I normally would, I still go out & do the things I have always done, go into the same huge stores & old buildings I have always gone into without thought of what would happen if there were another big one & I'm not losing sleep at night from worrying about what might be.
I'm not living in fear of them & I'm certainly not waiting around for the 'next' aftershock to happen. As far as I'm concerned every one I feel is the last one. It doesn't even cross my mind that there will be another one.... until it happens. Then for a few seconds or sometimes a few minutes, depending on the circumstances, absolutely everything goes to custard.lol!
The last one was a rather decent 4.9 magnitude, that once again had me grabbing my desk to hold on as the serious shaking started. As I did that I wondered why I was doing it. Was I afraid? No, not really. So why then?
I'm going to attempt to explain.
We often hear the aftershocks coming. A deep rumble or roar is quickly followed by a sharp whip like crack as the house starts to move. Then the rattling starts - doors, blinds & such. My mind deals with this in the "s**t another freakin aftershock" manner & if it's only been a smaller (as in short sharp type) aftershock I don't have much time to think more than that before it's over & everything can go back to it's regularly scheduled program.
It's when they go on for a bit longer than the split second it takes for you to realise one is happening & have the "s.a.f.a" reaction that things come unstuck. All of a sudden you realise that your body has tensed up in anticipation that this one might be building up into something big & your mind is quickly following suit. Grabbing onto something is the precursor to stabilising yourself in order to get up & head for the nearest door frame to take refuge under.
And then, just as you make that call to take cover, the shaking slows & you know it isn't going to be another big one.... even though your body feels as if the ground is still moving when you know it has stopped. It messes with your equilibrium & for some reason has the ability to spoil everything that has gone before. That few seconds can cruelly strip the shine off of the surface of an otherwise perfect day.
Whatever you were focussed on those few seconds earlier is instantly forgotten, as if someone has stirred up the silt on the bottom of a pond & what you know was there before isn't visible any more. You find yourself unable to settle & refocus, or only able to focus on things for a short time in between pacing up & down like a caged animal, in the hour or so afterwards. It's annoying - annoying & unsettling.
When everyone is at home it isn't so bad. But when partners are at work or kids are at school or in daycare it adds the element of worry to pot. Are they safe? Is the building they are in ok?
Even though you know that the buildings were all inspected & given clearance (or not) after the 'big one' there is no denying that these aftershocks have caused both fresh damage & further damage. Then there is the concern over family members still living in homes that have been damaged or on land that has subsided, while they wait to hear the verdict from EQC. You don't rest easy until you have made contact & hear that everyone is safe.
Life in many ways is normal.... or rather the new normal.And in many ways it's not at all normal.
I'm not alone in the fact that I haven't picked up things that fell or moved during the first earthquake. Everything large & breakable is still sitting on the floor where they can't fall any further. Although I expect every aftershock to be the last aftershock right back at the beginning I decided that they wouldn't go back up until we'd had no more for at least a fortnight. I don't see the point in adding to the list of breakages if it can be avoided. Fortunately this isn't the 'new' normal, it's just normal for now.
In the bigger scheme of things, city wide, it's not that normal either. But perhaps that is for another post. This one has already become quite long & I still have things I want to say.
I completely understand what this is doing to people, what it does to ones psyche - I feel that too. I don't want to trivialise feelings or what people are going through...yet on the other hand I want to say 'get over it & count your blessings, this is life - for now at least & aren't we so fortunate that it is this great?!"
With Haiti still as fresh as it ever was on my mind it would be difficult not to feel that way.... & Haiti is what I compare everything back to. Not only the incredible loss that people of Haiti suffered on January 12th, but what they continue to suffer with Cholera now taking it's toll amidst tropical storms & everything else that is still happening.... & much that hasn't happened that should have.
A word I used to describe what I was feeling in the week immediately after the earthquake was conflicted. I still feel that way. So if you see the occasional status update on FaceBook referring to an aftershock, please forgive me - it just means that an aftershock temporarily rattled my brain ;)
The image above? That was my shoe cabinet the morning of the earthquake. It still looks that way - only a few more have gone over. The other cabinet is the same. Yes, there are breakages - but I'm not concerned. They're just things after all :)
and yesterday morning I picked the first of the strawberries & savoured their sun warmed, sweet, juicy goodness. There is nothing quite like the taste of strawberries grown in the home garden, for some reason they are always sweeter than when you buy them at the supermarket.
I doubt that my wee pot will ever produce the amount required to give the family a decent bowl full each all at the same time, but I guess we can take turns picking & eating them as they ripen.
A side note;
There may be a very valid reason for home grown strawberries always tasting sweeter. Commercially grown strawberries are often picked for their keeping qualities. Strawberries don't last well so pickers will pick under conditions that help them keep through the sorting, packing & shipping process ensuring that they arrive at the market in peak conditions. This often involves picking early in the morning or on a cool cloudy day.
When sun is on fruit it causes the natural fruit sugars to rise & aid with the ripening process. When the weather is cooler or cloudy fruit takes longer to ripen. So it makes sense that when you are picking home grown strawberries on a sunny day they are always going to taste sweeter.
It's that time again! No, not heading in a rush & a whirl towards Christmas, although it is that time as well!
It's time to get some creative juices flowing, time for some Artistic Growth & Nurturing of the Creative Spirit. Mallory & I have chatting on Skype about how to challenge our creativity by thinking outside the square.
Do you remember the Freaky Friday Challenges that my lovely friend Mallory of Rosebuds Lampwork Beads & For The Love of Beads Blog & I used to do? If you don't, or you are new to my blog you can find mine here & Mallory's here.
The great news is that we are at it again!! Always so wonderful at encouraging others Mallory has come up with the idea of doing something similar to the Freaky Friday Challenges. This time we aren't going to restrict it to lampwork beads alone - we are going to explore new mediums & new ways of using the mediums we work in.
Looking back at those blog posts I couldn't believe how much we have both changed & grown in our lampworking since then. This time we are going to focus on other mediums, but will bring our beads into it in "new to us" ways at a later date.
At this point we are going to make it a Monthly Challenge as we feel this way we give ourselves permission & time to fully explore each medium we decide on. Quite possibly ideas will develop as we experiment & play with our chosen mediums & further mini challenges will result.
Since both of us have started working with copper & developed quite a crush on it our first challenge is going to be using copper wire & copper shapes. The only guideline is that the wire is to be in the form of a Love me Knot, but after that anything goes.
This should be fun!!
The reveal will be posted on our blogs on November 24th - so check back then. Of course if you ask nicely, we may just be tempted to show a teaser ;-)
I'm pretty sure I have discovered the reason that whoever originally thought up the tale that was later to become Jack and the Beanstalk picked beans as the means of transport to a higher level. Seriously!
My beans are pretty average heirloom beans with nothing so special about them, except perhaps the story behind how they got here to New Zealand. In fact the bean seeds were rather plain, almost homely, in comparison to the scarlet runner seeds. Bob's Beans certainly displayed not outward sign of magical qualities...
At least not until they germinated.
One minute they were breaking the breaking through the soil
A mere 26 hours later they'd doubled in size.
Just imagine if they had been truly magic beans!
They do hold a little magic for me. Not only do I enjoy watching seeds germinate & grow but "Bob's beans" have a rather nice story behind them. They were originally brought to New Zealand by a returning Prisoner of War after the second World War, hidden in his socks. The soldier had been hiding in the hills in Italy after having escaped from a Prisoner of War camp and decided he couldn't return home without these beans that had become a much loved part of his diet.
In the USA they are known as Valena Italian or Kahnawake Mohawk beans with varying tales as to how they originally got there.
Not so long ago, in the spot where this raw new concrete pad now resides, was a quaint old corner store.
It was the home of a bespoke & fine furniture makers showroom & workshop, & if you bothered to venture inside the door you could happily be transported back in time to a gentler era by the scents of beeswax & french polish.
The visual feast of softly radiant timber completed the feel.
The business name is Ambrose Heal & it has been there for almost as long as I have lived in the At Albans area. A small business using time honoured methods of crafting & resorting beautiful furniture. The store itself was badly damaged in the September 4th Earthquake, & like all bar one in the immediate vicinity was demolished.
Not to be daunted the owner kept trading out of an old house adjoining the property while plans for a new building were made. He even had a Sale but now it's back to business as usual, well almost as usual.....
Being a gardener without any real garden to speak of forces one to become reliant on gardening in pots.
Dare I say it? Yes, why not...hey, it's my blog after all!
I loathe being restricted to pots.
Don't get me wrong, I love pots as feature elements in a garden. I just prefer to put most plants in the ground & let them do their own thing as nature intended sometimes gently guiding them to work in with what I want & sometimes not. Besides, gardening in pots is far more work intensive & so very limiting in very many ways.
In other ways it is a good thing. When you are running around on a daily basis hand watering all those 'darn pots' you seem to develop more of a personal interest in the individual plants rather than a planting as a whole. Small things that often get overlooked in a larger planting often bear closer examination.
Before you know it those work intensive pots & their inhabitants have you in their grasp, bending close to look for the small stuff the wonderful details so often missed when they are just part of the crowd.
The beautiful claret veining on the leaves of Heuchera - "Green Spice"
The remnants of a morning dew on Alchemilla mollis.
Ok, so I had to kneel on the ground for this shot!