Archive | tidbits RSS feed for this section

WSBN Spring Fling sewing room tour

20 Sep

The ever inventive Gemma over at 66 stitches suggested to the rest of the WSBN that we do a sewing room tour over the month of September, a Spring Fling to celebrate the new season, and I agreed to do the 19th! Wait, it’s not the 19th? Well, it’s probably the 19th somewhere, right? The post before me is Teresa, here, and the post “after” me, ahem, is Nicola, here

Anyway, moving right along. Gemma gave us a bunch of questions to answer and the idea is to give you a tour of our space. But this tour has started some interesting conversations with my WSBN friends about our rooms and our habits and behaviors and our feelings about sharing photographic evidence of them have got me thinking, so I thought that as well as sharing my space, I’d share some of my thoughts. Feel free to just look at the pictures though, if that’s what you’re here for! (Oh, and sorry for the poor pictures, I didn’t realise how out of focus I was until tonight and if I take another set I’ll be even later posting this!

The view from the door. My room is long and narrow and it's almost impossible to get a good  shot with my cellphone camera. Featuring my massive all-purpose table, and Minerva's chair (the office one) tucked away under the table).  I wheel it out for her to sit on when she wants to hang out with me down here.

The view from the door. My room is long and narrow and it’s almost impossible to get a good shot with my cellphone camera. Featuring my massive all-purpose table, and Minerva’s
chair (the office one) tucked away under the table). I wheel it out for her to sit on when she wants to hang out with me down here.

So, what’s the thinking part? Well, I’ve been thinking about the relationships between habits and behaviours, and how the space that you work in affects your creativity and your productivity.

We’ve had lots of chats in the WSBN since we started this series about the messiness, or lack thereof, of our sewing spaces. Many of us declared our spaces to be a mess, and decided to show our spaces, mess and all, on the tour. I find it such a refreshing change to all the Pinterest-worthy media we often consume through blogs and magazines to know that mess is human, and often part of the creative condition. In fact, recently I read several articles that suggest people working in messy spaces are more creative!

But for me, if there are mountains of mess towering over me while I sew or craft I feel their presence as an oppressive force. I struggle to start a new project if there is a mess on the table and have to tidy up first, else it acts as a constant distraction. I’m not exactly a neat creator though, so during a project a mess of offcuts, misplaced objects, pattern tissue, and bits of mock up and fashion fabrics will end up smeared over all my working surfaces. But if the ripples of chaos spread out too far, that oppression will again weigh down on me until I snap and do a mid project tidy up while childhood mantras about “clean as you go” go through my head.

As the room does double duty as craft room and home office, my sole work table is also the central sorting and clearing house. This is where bills to be paid and letters to write and broken things to fix and receipts to file and to-do lists and other seemingly endless accoutrements of being a grown up collect.  A friend refers to these piles as “kipple”, which I love! I’d rather have my kipple accumulate somewhere other than my work table, but for assorted reasons my  is where it gathers.

So I find that the mess in my sewing room is tidal. Bits will accumulate like seaweed pushed up to the high tide mark, making drifts that show the currents I make as I move around my house. When I want to sew or craft that need for tidiness means I sweep through and drag it under control, tidying the piles (and often relocating them onto the bed), only for the very next wave to push more unopened mail up into a corner.

These photos were taken at a particularly low tide, as immediately after taking these photos I had a guest over and launched into a new project, both of which meant I needed to clear the table.

Same side as the door, looking back the other way. The light coming through the windows made this shot hard to get!

Same side as the door, looking back the other way. The light coming through the windows made this shot hard to get!

With my back to the desk. The door is to my right, and other than the door the entire right hand wall is two double wardrobes with sliding doors.

With my back to the desk. The door is to my right, and other than the door the entire right hand wall is two double wardrobes with sliding doors. Minerva’s chair is in front of me. At the very back of the table, by the bookshelf, is a small pile of kipple.

Back to Minerva's chair, showing our custom built desk. It's super wide and deep so that we can do lots of paperwork on it, but it still gets messy. I blame Mechanic Man

Back to Minerva’s chair, showing our custom built desk. It’s super wide and deep so that we can do lots of paperwork on it, but it still gets messy. I blame Mechanic Man

My sewing machines, tucked into a corner of my work table. Behind is a small set of drawers and a tray that contain scissors, quick unpick, pins, and all the other rapid-access stuff.

My sewing machines, tucked into a corner of my work table. Behind is a small set of drawers and a tray that contain scissors, quick unpick, pins, and all the other rapid-access stuff.

Immediately to my right when I'm sitting at my machines is this tower The tackle box on the top is filled with thread and elastic and saftey pins and my rotary cutter and other stuff that I want to be able to find quickly but aren't used every project. Zips hang off the side. The other levels are other tools and equipment, including glue guns, lots of different types of glue, paper scissors, etc. My sewing machine manuals also live in this.

Immediately to my right when I’m sitting at my machines is this tower The tackle box on the top is filled with thread and elastic and saftey pins and my rotary cutter and other stuff that I want to be able to find quickly but aren’t used every project. Zips hang off the side. The other levels are other tools and equipment, including glue guns, lots of different types of glue, paper scissors, etc. My sewing machine manuals also live in this.

My home-made corkboard (made from a pack of cork tiles and a couple of corrguated cardboard boxes). Was meant to be a beautiful moodboard, is more of a dumping ground. Yes, that is a photocopy of my cat, she sat on the printer when it  was open so I pressed the copy button! And yes, that is a copy of the NZ Fire Fighter's calendar - men's version. It's signed by Mr April. There are also my dance medals and some of my favourite quotes, amongst the debris.

My home-made corkboard (made from a pack of cork tiles and a couple of corrguated cardboard boxes). Was meant to be a beautiful moodboard, is more of a dumping ground. Yes, that is a photocopy of my cat, she sat on the printer when it was open so I pressed the copy button! And yes, that is a copy of the NZ Fire Fighter’s calendar – men’s version. It’s signed by Mr April. There are also my dance medals and some of my favourite quotes, amongst the debris.

The double wardrobes and their sliding doors. I couldn't get far enough away to show their full width, this is not quite all of it. The kimono was a gift from a previous flatmate, and the skirt is waiting to be levelled and hemmed.

The double wardrobes and their sliding doors.  The kimono was a gift from a previous flatmate, and the skirt is waiting to be levelled and hemmed.

Right hand double wardrobe, filled with drawers. This is all non-sewing supplies - yarn, paper, embroidery, masses and masses of jewellery supplies, etc

Right hand double wardrobe, filled with drawers. This is all non-sewing supplies – yarn, paper, embroidery, masses and masses of jewellery supplies, etc

The left hand double wardrobe, right behind my machines. This is all sewing or costuming related.

The left hand double wardrobe, right behind my machines. This is almost all sewing or costuming related. The shelves are custom built to support the clear bins, which are all fabric. I have an enormous stash, to the point it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. The red bin is all ribbon and trim. The second from top shelf is largely filled with shoeboxes, all labeled, one for interfacing, one for hardware (buckles and boning and bag handles), one for costuming bases (untrimmed bras and gloves), one full of flowers for costuming, one for sew on motifs and patches, and more. A few are obscured by the corner of the kimono. There is a little set of plastic drawers, like the one on my sewing table, tucked away in there for buttons. The top shelf has WIPs, both sewing and other crafts.

Attempting a close up of the sewing wardrobe. The clear bins are all fabric. I have an enormous stash, to the point it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. The red bin is all ribbon and trim.

Attempting a close up of the sewing wardrobe.

Some of my fabric goodies, stashed away in a bin. I tie all my fabric into rolls, it makes it 1000 times easier to dig through and tip them out and pet them.

Some of my fabric goodies, stashed away in a bin. I tie all my fabric into rolls, it makes it 1000 times easier to dig through and tip them out and pet them.

The other corner, opposite from the sewing cupboard. My shelves, filled with sewing and crafting books, knitting magazines, and Burda magazines; and my ironing board, currently drowning in undone ironing. Pressing in a project, yes. Ironing my washing, very infrequently.

The other corner, opposite from the sewing cupboard. My shelves, filled with sewing and crafting books, knitting magazines, and Burda magazines; and my ironing board, currently drowning in undone ironing. Pressing in a project, yes. Ironing my washing, very infrequently.

Under my massive table are smaller bins, filled with non fashion fabrics or speciality fabrics. This is where I'll find felt, leather, vintage brocade, torn pantihose, old doilies or blankets, and all my scraps for crafting/repairs. On top live a series of shoeboxes that house my excessive pattern collection. I couldn't get all of the patterns in in one shot, there's a couple more shoe boxes out of frame to the right.

Under my massive table are smaller bins, filled with non fashion fabrics or speciality fabrics. This is where I’ll find felt, leather, vintage brocade, torn pantihose, old doilies or blankets, and all my scraps for crafting/repairs. On top live a series of shoeboxes that house my excessive pattern collection. I couldn’t get all of the patterns in in one shot, there’s a couple more shoe boxes out of frame to the right.

The final corner. This bookshelf lives behind the door, right next to the desk, and is filled with household and business filing.

The final corner. This bookshelf lives behind the door, right next to the desk, and is filled with household and business filing.

This is what happens when you attempt to take a photo just as your cat headbutts you for attention.

This is what happens when you attempt to take a photo just as your cat headbutts you for attention.

She does specialise in being helpful.

She does specialise in being helpful.

I’ll be honest. I would love for my sewing space to be tidy all the time. I feel more productive, more effective in a tidy space. And it’s not just the visible space. I like my stash to be neat and tidy, and my magazines to be in date order, and everything to be under control. What this means is that I spend more time tidying then some of my friends, some of whom are incredible productive in their sewing and crafting. In fact, I have been teased for spending more time organising my stash then sewing with it!

So I wonder, could I learn to craft in chaos? Could I spend less time tidying and more time making?

Also, being the thinker that I am, I wonder what this relationship with mess means? I think about the article I linked to above, and I wonder, am I not creative because my space isn’t messy enough? As I frequently doubt whether or not I can all myself creative, I wonder should I learn to craft in chaos to somehow improve (or just prove) my creativity?

But I doubt I could as my habits are so ingrained. But at the other extreme, I do want to do more with my sewing room than just tidy it! I do want to embrace the creativity that comes with mess! So, I try to find a balance where I invest enough time in tidying that I can work in it, but not so much that it is all I do. And one day, when we no longer have a flatmate, I’ll relocate the home office and kipple pile to another room! But in the meantime, the tide comes and goes.

But there is more than just chaos versus order to contend with when thinking about our relationship with our space! What about function? What about aesthetics?

Gemma suggested we tell you a bit about our upcoming projects. I am currently head down on a complex lot of burlesque costuming. This pile of wet look foil printed knit is part of that!

Gemma suggested we tell you a bit about our upcoming projects. I am currently head down on a complex lot of burlesque costuming. This pile of wet look foil printed knit is part of that!

Functionally, the biggest pro and con is my table. My table is 2.4m long by 1.6m wide, which is big enough for just about anything. It was the very first thing I bought off TradeMe (NZ’s eBay). I bought largely because I thought it would make sewing and cutting out a breeze. To fit it in this room my then flatmate, I kid you not, CHOPPED THE LEGS OFF IT (and then used giant doweling to join them back together). I can cut on it, I can spread out jewellery supplies on it, my sewing machines live on it. And when a few years ago I started my monthly craft day it was perfect for up to 12 people to sit around and work on.  But, it totally dominates my long, skinny room. And being a single work surface (as well as aforementioned clearing house) it can get swamped, meaning I’m having to move things around as I move between activities. Another reason why I work so hard to manage the mess! Sometimes I wonder if a smaller desk just for my machines, and a smaller cutting table would be a better combo, and help me be more productive. Maybe I’ll experiment when the home office migrates in a year or so. (But in the meantime, it serves as excellent cover for the crates of craft fabrics and patterns loitering underneath it!)

She also suggested we show of our favourite bits of stash. As I love all of my stash, and digging it out is hard work, I thought I'd show this pile that has most recently been prewashed. Yes, there is four lots of polka dot, so what?

She also suggested we show of our favourite bits of stash. As I love all of my stash, and digging it out is hard work, I thought I’d show a random selection, so you get this pile that has most recently been prewashed. Yes, there is four lots of polka dot, so what?

Aesthetically, there is SO much I want to do to this room. I want new coloured walls and new curtains and beautiful furniture everywhere. I’ll be honest, I (not so) secretly want a Pinterest-worthy space! I want natural light and bright colours and a moodboard and lots of art and probably even a mason jar or two, possibly with buttons in them. I want to walk in to my room and feel like I’m looking at a magazine spread! I want to feel the same rush of lust that I got when I saw Oona’s recent colourful sewing room tour (I like to think the WSBN tour inspired her post, haha!) But I’m limited in what I can achieve by cost and time and the sheer headache of unpacking my room long enough to repaint. Not to mention the lack of functional walls (with three of them largely dominated by windows or cupboards). So I’m doing a bit here and a bit there and one day when the home office is banished to the other spare bedroom and this space is solely mine it will achieve glorious perfection. Or is that aiming too high? In the meantime the lack of beauty is yet another reason why I work so hard to manage the debris that seems to accumulate, so that I have the beauty of open space, if not the true beauty of the room. The lack of aesthetic pleasure doesn’t affect my productivity in the same way as mess does,  but I certainly feel more inspired and more creative when I look at pretty things. Thank goodness for blogs, right?

Gemma also thought we should show you some shots of our location. As the view out my sewing room windows is of our fence, here's a shot of the Island Bay beach that is at the end of my street, less than 50 metres from here.

Gemma also thought we should show you some shots of our location. As the view out my sewing room windows is of our fence, here’s a shot of the Island Bay beach that is at the end of my street, less than 50 metres from here.

I love living on the South Coast of Wellington, and when you have views like this on walks along the beach, can you blame me?

I love living on the South Coast of Wellington, and when you have views like this on walks along the beach, can you blame me?

And a parting shot of Island Bay taken from a hill looking down. I didn't take this, my aunt-in-law did, but it is too gorgeous not to include.

And a parting shot of Island Bay taken from a hill looking down. I didn’t take this, my aunt-in-law did, but it is too gorgeous not to include.

Thanks for sticking it out this far, if you have in fact made it to the end!

 

So tell me, what about your space, and your relationship with it, influences your creativity and productivity?

The tale of 12,000 beads

23 May

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away About 14 years ago, as a uni student, I got a part time job in a costume jewellery shop. It was a tiny store, owned and run by one woman. It stocked costume jewellery, bags and shoes made from matching leather, hats, and gloves. Basically everything you needed for a bridal party, mother of the bride, school ball, or other fancy schmancy event. Or you know, for fun.

Although some of the costume jewellery was bought from wholesalers, some of it was designed and made by the owner. I worked one and a half days a week, sole charge, and on those days one of my jobs became to make replacements for any jewellery sold during the week. The owner would leave me with a box of supplies and her design specs, and in between customers I would make jewellery. This was where I learned the basics of jewellery making, skills I still use!

Eventually, the owner decided to close the store. It came up in conversation with the owner that she had heaps of old supplies she’d inherited from the previous owner and had never sorted or used and she was going to give them away. I pounced – perhaps I could have some? She said yes!

Being a destitute and now unemployed student, my aunt agreed to be my cargo driver, so we bowled up to the owner’s house together.

There was a room haphazardly carpeted with over a dozen huge boxes of supplies, all jumbled up, no sense or structure or even labels. We didn’t have time for a through investigation so my method was simple: glance in the box; if the box looked more than half interesting take it; if it looked less than half interesting, leave it.

In amongst all the supplies there was one thing that kept catching my eye. There were dozens of small plastic containers laden with hand painted glass beads. They looked liked lollies and were just as enticing. I had to have them ALL. I’d open a box and see them and claim the box. My aunt would say “but you’ve got those” and I’d point out that these ones were DIFFERENT.

Beads like lollies! There were black ones and blue ones and green ones and red ones and purple ones, in lots of shapes like teardrops and eggs and hearts, and they were all hand-painted with gold swirls and little jewel-like drops of colour. I loved them.

Beads like lollies! There were black ones and blue ones and green ones and red ones and purple ones, in lots of shapes like teardrops and eggs and hearts, and they were all hand-painted with gold swirls and little jewel-like drops of colour. I loved them.

Eventually we exchausted our stamina (and more constraining, my aunt’s boot space) and we left. I had claimed 9 banana boxes of supplies. Now, in fabric that might not be much – but this was jewellery supplies. Tiny tiny things. So imagine how many supplies were in those 9 boxes!

The boxes went into storage for a couple of years while I moved around, but once I settled I dug them out and started the laborious process of sorting the contents. Like went with like: beads with beads, chains with chains, clasps with clasps, etc. Then I sorted inside each of those categories, by colour or type or similar. This significantly reduced the amount of space it all took up (as I threw out bags and bags of snaplock bags that weren’t needed), got me familiar with my haul, and appealed to my ‘must-organise-all-the-things brain.

As I did this, I grouped the plastic containers of glassy lollie goodness together. And eventually discovered I had over 60 of these plastic pots, each with a different design of bead in it. It was, to use a technical term, LOTS.

How they were stored. There are more in the drawers and those are more underneath too.

How they were stored. There are more in the drawers and those are more underneath too.

I was a little overwhelmed by the quantity. I could never make enough jewellery to use them all. And they hadn’t been cleaned, meaning the holes were filled with glass dust and using them required cleaning the holes out first. So although I made one or two pieces I mostly just moved them around the house over and over again trying to make them take up less space then they did without the use of a TARDIS, with limited success.

Eventually I realised my tastes had changed and I was no longer drawn to these beads – and even if I made them all into jewellery I could never sell it all, so l decided to sell the beads.

I sold them at markets. I sold them on TradeMe. I sold and I sold in packets of 10 and 20, and after a while I sat back and realised… I’d barely made a dent. So. Many. Glass. Beads.

The beads had stopped being inspirational and exciting and started being a millstone, taking up both physical and mental space in my life. They sapped my creativity, made me feel guilty and uninspired. I had to get rid of them but was out of ideas.

Then one day I was reading some unsolicited mail from the Child Cancer Foundation, asking for donations. They told a story of a young child who had undergone so many procedures, and made reference to their Beads of Courage programme, where they give away a bead for every procedure, so that every child has a long strong of beads to mark their history. I looked at the photos of the beads and thought “they’re so pretty. They’re just like mine.” And like that, I made the connection.

I contacted the Child Cancer Foundation and asked if they would like to have my beads. They were so excited! They’d love to have them, we just had to get them to Auckland.

Could I post them? they asked.

No. No I cannot. There are lots.

Could they put them in someone’s carry on luggage? they asked

No. No you cannot. There are LOTS.

Sorted out ready for packing. I couldn't get them all in a close shot. Still haven't figured out how many there are?

Sorted out ready for packing. I couldn’t get them all in a close shot. Still haven’t figured out how many there are?

Eventually we agreed that we’d wait until Mechanic Man was heading north and load them into the van for him to drop off. It took a couple of months but eventually he was ready for a trip north.

I hauled all the beads out and tried to figure out how to pack them in a way that was transportable and could be carried by one person, and as I did so I decided to do a quick bit of maths.

Based on the average weight of the bead, and estimating the number of beads in each container, I worked out I had 10,000 to 12,000 beads, weighing about 70 kilograms and taking up over a cubic metre of space.

That, people, is the very essence of a LOT of beads.

Does this help?

Does this help?

Mechanic Man dropped them off to the Child Cancer Foundation, who has arranged an army of volunteers to clean all the holes and anneal the beads to make them safe for children and their families. The people there were so excited, I wish I could have been there to see it! I asked Mechanic Man to take a photo with this post in mind, but he’s not that way inclined and forgot. So you’ll just have to imagine it.

It's hard to tell, but the three large cardboard boxes stacked around the motorbike? They're ALL BEADS.

It’s hard to tell, but the three large cardboard boxes stacked around the motorbike? They’re ALL BEADS.

So I have divested myself of 12,000 beads. Of 70 kilos of beads. Of over 1 cubic metre of beads.

So after 14 years, I created physical space in my home, mental space in my creative juices, and made a bunch of people very happy. It’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done with jewellery. And to top it off, I got a Christmas card from them saying that they’d been giving the beads away to parents and siblings of their child cancer clients, who were making their own necklaces, or earrings, or even Christmas decorations out of them.

I did keep one bead of every design, for sentimental reasons, of course!

Now don’t get me wrong – these weren’t the ONLY beads I got that fun day 14 years ago. I’ve kept all the others, so I can still continue to create jewellery, but the ones I’ve got left take up much less space and remain exciting to work with. But clearing out those beads? That was truly a moment of satisfaction!

Looking back, looking forward

10 Mar

I drafted most of this about two months ago, so it was late then. Now it just seems ridiculous. But I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway, because I want to be able to read this next year and remember my thinking. Feel free to come back later when there are exciting sewing, knitting, and other craft projects to look at!

I’ve been enjoying everyone’s wrap up posts over January (edit: and a few in February!) but… I’m not doing one. Not like those anyway. I haven’t made enough to pick a top 5 of anything, and it’s getting on a bit (edit: a lot!)  in the year anyway! But I have been reflecting, as I always do this time of year, about last year, my goals and successes, and what I want to do this year and thought I’d capture it so I could refer back to it later. You’re welcome to have a read too if you’re curious.

Looking back!

Last year I had two major goals to help me make more room for creating in my life, and so I’ve been thinking about how well I achieved these.

Goal 1: Spend 15 minutes a day, at least, on creative endeavours.

This was to try and carve out a bit more time doing the things I truly love, and a bit less time surfing the net or snoozing my alarm or channel surfing. Was I successful?

Yes and no.

I used a calendar for the first few months to track my success. There were more days then I hoped when I simply dithered my way through the day and missed out. But also, when I took into account ALL of my hobbies – rock and roll classes, social dancing, burlesque classes and performing, and writing this blog, as well as sewing, knitting, and embroidery – I did cover a lot of ground. This was reassuring that my life was much more full of delight than I gave it credit for. It’s a reminder that confirmation bias creeps in and turns subjectivity into negativity, where confirmation bias is that I NEVER do ANYTHING FUN and my WHOLE LIFE is just BORING STUFF. My lesson is that I should take more delight in all the fun things I do do, and remember them when I am feeling down.

Yoda on confirmation bias

I also learned that if  I go more than a couple of days without doing something creative I get grouchy, and conversely that if I am grouchy or stressed that picking up a project or going dancing is the best relief. I know, right? Who’d’ve thought that doing what you love would have a causal relationship with mood. Yeah, you can all shut up now. For me, it was a revelation and something to remember when I need a mood altering experience.

Two great lessons! But the true goal –  of getting into the habit of squeezing creativity in here and there, of making it second nature to pick my sewing table over the computer table, to (quoting from last year) “feed the creative beast, just make stuff” made less progress. It was far more like binging. I’d pour hours into a project over a few days then go a few days without. So, this year I’m going to continue to work on this philosophy, to try to keep creativity active, alive, and constant in my life.

Goal 2: 52 moments of satisfaction.

I wanted, over the course of the year, 52 moments where I sat back and thought “hell yeah. That rocked. That was awesome. That was worth it. I DID THAT”.

You know that feeling. Yeah you do. I wanted more of it. But did I get to 52? In a word, no. But I’m not in tears about it. Because some of these moments were HUGE.

I made 36 cushion covers for one moment. Embellished three tees for another. I made (with help) an entire burlesque costume for another. All of my baking moments were days where I made three or four cakes and treats. I fixed six necklaces one day. And I fixed, or altered a bunch of things in my fix it box without even bothering to count them. So, if I count individual objects, I well overshot the 52 mark. And in terms of hours, some of those moments represent dozens of them. And there was some impressive progress made on some WIPs that didn’t quite make it onto the list. So it represents a solid year of work. (And I do have plans to blog several more items, once I get photos! I really need a camera…)

What was the final list?

1. Red knitted Peggy Sue cardigan
2. Banana seat cushion
3. Purple frankenCambie for best friend’s wedding
4. Three vinyl printed tees
5. Three red velvet cushion covers
6. Red necklace for Miss La Belle
7. Peggy-Sue leftover beanie (to be blogged!)
8. Corazones heart skirt (to be blogged!)
9. Yellow dragonfly skirt
10. Aviatrix hat (to be blogged!)
11. All of the cushions (36 to be exact)
12. Dr Who burlesque outfit
13. Dr Who burlesque performance
14. Turquoise pencil skirt (alteration)
15. Flocked denim skirt (alteration)
16. Bananarama baking day
17. Mama’s jewellery overhaul
18. Bead donation (to be blogged!)
19. Pink leopard rock and roll dress (to be blogged!)
20. White petticoat (to be blogged!)
21. Pink leopard capelet (to be blogged!)
22. Pumpkin booties (to be blogged!)
23. Green maxi dress
24. Lemon cordial, lemon krummeltorte, chocolate cake (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
25. Ohm sweet ohm cross stitch (to be blogged!)
26. Christmas banana baking (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
27. Christmas cordial (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
28. Grace’s pin-up cushions (to be blogged!)
29. Rockabilly aprons (to be blogged!)
30. All the repairs. So many repairs. (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
31. Passed gold medal rock and roll dance exam (do you want to know about this?)
32. Pink hummingbird top

Let’s break this down a bit. Cos pie charts are fun and a picture seems like a nice idea.

2013's moments of satisfaction. There's always an "other" category...

2013’s moments of satisfaction. There’s always an “other” category…

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to have a list of 52, just cos I said I would, so it’s not without a tinge of disappointment that I acknowledge that I didn’t make it. There are things that exist in my head that I wanted to exist in real life. And I really hope they exist in real life one day. 

But there is real pleasure from looking at this list and realising all the things that I did manage to do. For this reason, I’m going to continue to keep an annual list of satisfaction, to remind myself of what I manage to fit into a very full and busy life.

Looking forwards!

So, what about 2014? Anything new? You betcha!

While I’m going to take what I’ve learned from 2013 and work it into my daily life, I have a new focus for 2014. I’m not the first to come up with it, and I won’t be the last. But this year, I want to sew with a plan, known by some as SWAPing.

I have a stash full of beautiful fabric, a mountain of patterns, and a computer full of inspiration pictures. But I’m not able to dress myself from my wardrobe every day in an outfit that makes my heart sing. It’s not entirely a lost cause! Occasionally I’ve worn ensembles that made me walk with a swagger as I collected compliments and checked out my reflection in passing shiny surfaces (and got busted doing that once by a colleague. Whoops). But often I just feel, well, meh. I’m not naked or cold so I’m dressed functionally, but otherwise, well, meh. I want to change that. I want to get distracted by my reflection every day (although I’ll have to learn to be more subtle to avoid embarassing converstaions). I want to walk with a spring in my step because I know I look good. I want my clothes to reflect my personality and my lifestyle. It may seem vain or shallow to some but to me it is about bringing joy and fun and self and confidence into what I wear, which I think translates into everything else. My plans for SWAPing are formulating in my head, but I’m going to give them a post all of their own. And then, you know, eventually start posting about sewing and knitting and stuff. Stay tuned, your patience will be rewarded!

And as this is a very text heavy post with no exciting photos, here is Minerva being adorable.

How can you not want to rub this? But it's ok, because you can!!!

How can you not want to rub this? But it’s ok, because you can!!!

Then that Christmas thing happened…

12 Feb

Holy moly it’s been a while since I’ve got all chatty up in here. But you know, December happened. Complete with The Great Hard Drive Failure of 2013, All of The Christmas Parties, The Massive Paperwork That Comes With Our Busiest Business Period, The Holy Crap If Im Going To Fit 4 Relatives In My House I Better Do A Lot Of Tidying Housework Blitz, and The How Did Christmas Get Here So Fast? Shopping Mania.

But it did get here fast and I had a wonderful time. Mechanic Man and I stayed in Wellington for the first time since we moved here 10 years ago, and my parents and brothers came down and stayed with us. The weather was mostly crappy but the food, adventures, crafting, and especially the company were awesome. (I’d bombard you with photos but I’m sure you don’t care and I can’t be assed editing them. Use your imagination.) And now I’m slowly emerging from the chaos and getting my house and head in order for a new year.

And I got an extra special Christmas present I can’t wait to tell you all about!

Meet Minerva. Min, Minnie, or Minnie the Moocher for short.

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, that I used to list her on petsonthenet. She's not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she's adorable

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, which I used to list her on petsonthenet. She’s not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she’s adorable. Look at those extra long whiskers!

Min adopted us at Christmas. And by adopted us I mean turned up and demanded to live with us until we caved and said yes. I’m madly in love with her.

Let me tell you the story. (It’s a long story. I suck at short stories. Short on time? Here’s the short version. SPOILER: We got a cat.)

We often have neighborhood cats wander through our yard. Most of them are skittish or shy and if you get too close they run away. Occasionally friendly ones will come by for a pat and a play. Mechanic Man and I love cats but MM has always been reluctant to own one so we take the pats from local kitties when we can get them. But we’ve always strongly felt that encouraging someone else’s cat to stray is mean, so we never feed neighborhood kitties and we never let them in the house.

We thought Min was a neighborhood kitty. She’s super friendly and loves pats and would come by the yard every now and then for attention, and had been for a couple of months before Christmas. But we never fed her or let her in the house, and she never tried to get in.

A few days before Christmas she came by for a pat and was rewarded with an outpouring of attention from my four newly arrived cat-crazy relatives. She started hanging around constantly and was never far away. After a couple of days we noticed she was sleeping in our little lean-to by the shed. We thought nothing much of it at the time. But then it all started to change when a couple of days before Christmas she started coming inside. Every time she was promptly chased out. We had a family meeting and agreed to lay off the attention so she’d be encouraged to return to her family.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

She responded by turning up the demands. She came into the house constantly and started sleeping on our furniture. She’d mewl at us when we went past and started a new game where she’d run into the house then run straight to a different door so we’d let her out that side. I started to wonder if maybe she didn’t have a family after all.

Then on Christmas Eve she cried outside for ages, on both sides of the house, and we could hear her trying to get in our locked cat flap. On Christmas Day we emerged to find her asleep on the deck under the cat flap. That day she jumped though Punk Flatmates window three times. She cried again that night and slept in the lean to.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

We didn’t want to encourage what was obviously a friendly, experienced domestic cat to stray and wondered why she was so reluctant to go home. We surmised that maybe her family had gone away for the holidays and locked her outside with a bowl of food and she was simply lonely, and although I was worried we decided to continue to keep her outside and not feed her, but that we’d keep an eye on her to make sure she was ok.

She stopped crying after only a couple of days, but then she got listless. Previously she’d always come running if you called her for a pat but now she wouldn’t leave the little bed she’d made in the lean-to and if you went to her she wouldn’t really move. We wondered if maybe her owners hadn’t left out enough food or had a catsitter who was unreliable. Torn between our duty to her owners and our duty to her, we discussed and agreed to feed her, outside only, and decide what to do next after New Years.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she's still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she’s still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

She was delighted to be fed and after a day or two perked up, back to normal. We still thought she must have a family somewhere, probably on holiday, and it was a temporary care arrangement so she still wasn’t allowed inside.

Of course, that was quite irrelevant to her and we’d frequently find her in the house acting like she owned it. She was completely unafraid and attempts to chase her out were often met with a raised paw so she could lick her bum.

A couple of days before New Years it bucketed down. Worried about her, we moved her food bowl from the lean-to to our conservatory and made her a wee bed with an old towel, and left the conservatory door open so she could gain access, and she happily moved into the new pad. But she still wasn’t allowed inside.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I've since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I’ve since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

Over the next few days we put photos of her online at petsonthenet.co.nz, put an ad in the supermarket, and took her to the local vet to be scanned, which returned a nil result. I was reluctant to surrender her to the SPCA as they limit attempts to reunite to seven days, and with it being the holidays I was worried that wasn’t long enough to find her home. The thought of a family getting home from holiday to find their cat gone was enough to want to avoid this. So we kept feeding her, and re listing the online ad, and waiting.

On 11 January I decided that I wanted to have her in the house. We’d either find her owners and then we would know where to return her to, or we would keep her. I begged Mechanic Man but he was still reluctant. Feeling that adopting a fur baby requires both parties to be willing I let it be. Then out of the blue, the following day, he let her in and brought her to me as I was doing paper work and she slept at my feet for about three hours. I was ecstatic.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

That was probably the first day we started thinking of her as ours. But just in case she had a family nearby, after a week of having her in the house we put a collar on her with our number, assuming that they’d either cut it off or call. A couple of weeks later and she was still wearing our collar and no one had rung.

But the day we truly acknowledged that we are now owned by a cat was in late January, when we were planning our annual budget. Mechanic Man piped up with ” we better budget for cat costs”. Well, if she’s in the budget, she must be ours.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man's lap. He's such a softie.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man’s lap. He’s such a softie.

But no drama is complete without a twist at the end! As a new, responsible, budget-allocating pet owner we decided we’d get her checked out properly and microchipped. We booked her in with a different vet (not having liked the first one) for last Saturday. As a matter of course, the first thing they did was scan Min for a chip. And it beeped. We were shocked, but really pleased that we’d finally found her owners, as surely they were missing her like crazy. The vet rang the owners and told them we’d found her, and arranged to hold her in their care until she could be picked up. I was pleased and yet… I’d grown really attached to her. So I asked if I could say goodbye for a few minutes, and then once the vet left us alone I promptly burst into tears! I spent a few minutes patting her and gathering myself together, and when I saw the next appointment arrive, I popped her back in her cage, got my stuff, and prepared for the knock on the door. Sure enough, the receptionist gently tapped on the door and came in. But instead of ushering us our, she was holding the phone and said “the owner’s have just rung back. They have talked it over and want to know if you are interested in rehoming her.”

I was too emotional to speak so Mechanic Man took the call. Long story short, they’re virtually our next door neighbours! Min had wandered off a couple of times previously as she wasn’t at all fond of the newly-mobile toddlers of the family, and this was the longest she’d not come home. They decided that she was probably much happier with us! And so she came back with us to her new home.

And her original name? Vespa, appropriate, given Mechanic Man’s love of motorbikes!

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

But we’ve kept the name Minerva. Why? Minerva is the Roman goddess of sewing of course. And Minnie the Moocher is a great nickname, given she’s mooched her way right into our lives and love.

And that is my Christmas present from the universe. Minerva sleeps on our bed at night (although it took a couple of weeks for Mechanic Man to allow that), comes when she’s called every time, plays chasing games with us until we cry laughing, and meows around our ankles till we feed her. And she’s the only cat I’ve ever met who loves belly rubs. No tricks, no wait 30 seconds and then shred your hands, just purrs. In fact, if she’s outside in the sunshine she actively encourages belly rubs by stretching out on her back adorably. And she’s super mellow. We can tease her and she just relaxes and ignores us. We’ve spent hilarious minutes while she’s sleeping stretching out her legs and tickling her and patting her paws to see what will make her move. The answer is nothing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she'll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she's bathing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she’ll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she’s bathing. She just kept on licking.

She’s wonderful. And she’s ours now. Or more accurately, we’re hers. And she knows it.

Minerva is stretched out along the length of my body here, for an afternoon snuggle

Minerva and I stretched out together for an afternoon snuggle.

2013: obligatory planning post

24 Jan

Yeah, I know, it’s way past the New Year. I did draft this back in early January, the same day I drafted my last two posts. But I couldn’t post a New Year’s post until after I’d posted my Christmas tree and I couldn’t post that until I’d sorted out photos and since then I’ve been busy…

Excuses excuses. Moving along.

So although we’re more than three weeks into the year, I’m still going to post about my 2013 plans. As before, if you’re all over New Year’s planning posts, especially overly wordy and thinky ones, please skip this and we will return to your regularly scheduled finished objects posts soon. Well, as regularly scheduled as they get down in this paddock.

Every New Years period I enjoy taking some time over the holidays to reflect and consider, looking forwards and backwards. It all seems quite appropriate, given that January was named for Janus, the Roman god of transitions and new beginnings, who had two faces – one for looking forward and one for looking back. I guess there is just something about being on holiday, lazing in the sun, that makes me introspective. What can I say, I’m the thinky type at the best of times. You’ll get used to it.

Janus, borrowed blissfully from Wikipedia

Janus, borrowed blissfully from Wikipedia

As I introspected, I thought about 2012 and what was good and bad about it. 2012 was a bit of an odd year for me creatively. I had lots of ideas and dreams but was quite focused on home renovations/rearrangements, and getting our business in better shape. Although I didn’t quite get everything done I wanted to in 2012, I feel really pleased to be going back into a new state of being better organised, more established, and ready for this year. On the creative front however, while I did make a few things there really isn’t enough material to warrant a review so I decided not to do a “reflections of 2012” post.

Basically, what I figured out is that my creative output for 2012 was very low, and I don’t want to repeat that this year.

So I thought about what I DO want for 2013. And there are all sorts of plans that I could make. And almost all of them have been made by someone, somewhere! So many inspirational New Year’s posts that I’ve read! I could sew to a plan, I could stashbust, I could focus on fitting or separates or cake or frosting or palettes or challenges, blog more often, take better photos, etc. And I do want to do all of these!

But what I really want to do is just make stuff. I have so much pent up desire to Just Make Stuff.

The simplest way to get what you want. From Google Images.

The simplest way to get what you want.
From Google Images.

My fantastic friends tease me that I spend so much time talking about making things and reading about making things and planning to make the perfect things and analysing the things and tidying my sewing room that I don’t actually make anything. And that I can justify my non-productivity at a drop of the hat. And I’ll, grudgingly, admit there is a whole heap of merit in this observation. They are my friends. They know me well.

So for 2013 my focus is on feeding my creative beast. On trying things and making things and enjoying the sense of fulfilment that comes with it – and learning from the inevitable moments of frustration that are likely to also come. On focusing on moving away from theory and dreams and cataloguing, to creating and making and fulfilment, even if it means some losses along the way. Not let my perfectionism, my frustrations, and my fear-of-getting-it-wrong hold me back.

THIS. This is pinned to my wall as the single biggest thing inspiring me make stuff today. Quote by Ira Glass. Image from Google Images.

THIS. This is the story of my entire life. This is pinned to my wall as the single biggest thing inspiring me to Just Make Stuff.
Quote by Ira Glass. Image from Google Images.

You’ve all heard of the cure for writer’s block? Just start writing, even if it’s crap? Well, this is treatment for creative block. Just start making, even if it’s crap. It’s time to “fight my way through”.

So, goal in mind, how does this translate into plans for 2013?

I plan to make/complete 52 items this year.

Holy moly that’s a big one.

I am calling it 52 moments of satisfaction. Or maybe 52 moments of smugness. At the end of the year I want to be able to look back and go “wow, I made 52 things this year! I feel great about that!”

It’s a big jump from the small output of 2012. But it’s my challenge and I set the rules so here is how I’m making it achievable for myself.

  • It’s not a thing a week. If I’ve worked on knitting a cardigan for a month and have produced nothing else that is ok. But I might need to offset that by finishing off a bunch of hems one weekend or settling myself down to make a dozen pairs of earrings.
  • It’s not all garments. It could include sewn accessories, beaded jewellery, embroidery, homewares, or even a really awesome cake or batch of biscuits if I feel so inclined. I’m going to decide what counts.
  • Finishing a UFO that has been languishing for ages counts, even if the UFO has hardly any work left on it. So does refashioning or remaking. Anything that makes me feel fulfilled at the end of it.

Even with me setting my own rules, this is a huge undertaking for me. So that brings me to my second plan for 2013.

I plan to spend at least 15 minutes every day on creating.

Yep, even if it’s only one seam or one row or one piece cut out I want to do something creative every day. Dancing (lessons or socially) counts. So does baking. So does blogging.

Again, it’s my challenge and I can make my own rules so I will allow some exceptions. Those are the days when I go to work and I have no lunch break and then I go straight to a dinner date then to a show then stagger in at 1am. Or the Saturday when I leave the house at 9am and come home at 11pm. These days are not frequent but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t manage anything on those days.

Progress to date!

The advantage of posting this so late in January is that I already have a sense of how I’m progressing. So far I’ve start and finished a cardigan, a seat cushion, and have almost finished three printed tees and a dress! And I’ve had only one day where I’ve just failed to create, because, you know, forgot.

The frustration is that the number of days that fall into the “exemption” category is high. In 24 days I’ve had five days that have just not been craft compatible. Still, 19 days of creativity for me is a milestone!

I’m feeling very excited about these plans. Wish me luck!

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

14 Jan

Well, sometimes things don’t work out quite as planned do they? I had this drafted up on the 6th of January, hot on the heels of my last post, but never got a chance to upload the photos before I went out to Whangarei, to beautiful weather and NO internet access. We got home Friday night after one and a half days on the road, and I’ve spent the weekend unpacking, tidying up, and doing our business’ book keeping (with much backdated blog reading in between  to procrastinate) before returning to work today (let’s not dwell on that!). But when I sat down to upload the photos tonight I had a chain of thought that went something like this… “But it’s so late and the photos I took are terrible on account of being a lousy photographer armed with only a cell phone that I don’t know how to use properly and really who cares about your tree and maybe I should wait until next year for better photos but next year I won’t be using this tree and damnitall I blog for ME and I’m sure the 7 people who read this can skim over it if they don’t want and I’ve done all the work so bugger it! Up it goes!”

So one last Christmas hurrah, and I hope you’re not all rolling your eyes at it.

I mentioned in my last post that I love Christmas. I got that from my mum who always made Christmas magical for me as a child and I never grew out of the pleasure I take in Christmas. Unfortunately there was a phase in our lives where Christmas lost some of its magic for a few years. In the lead up to Christmas 2003 Mum and I were talking about it and she announced that she was reclaiming Christmas for what it meant for us. As part of that she got rid of her virtually bald artificial tree and the tired battered remnants of decorations; then bought herself a new artificial tree and announced that she was starting afresh and that her desire was for this tree to be decorated entirely in white, with silver as an occasional contrast.

That was my first Christmas after I moved to Wellington and I had already decided not to bother putting up my own tree and paltry decorations as I was coming home for three weeks over Christmas. Instead I went to Kirkcaldie and Stains, a fancy schmancy department store, and bought some exquisite glass baubles that would work well on a white decorated tree.

Just like that a tradition was born and I have bought white decorations home with me every Christmas since, and this year marked the 10th installment of the tradition. I tend towards glass or porcelain or other luxury materials and have great fun hunting every year for white decorations. Some years the hunting has been less effective and I’ve had to settle for solely silver or for materials that aren’t as nice but then other years, like this one, I have had to reel myself in – as it was this year was a big haul, with me bringing with me at least 23 individual decorations (although in my defence some of them were bought in sets).

Each year once I arrive at my Mum’s place, I take great delight in showing her this year’s haul and we ooh and aah over them, before we enjoy the pleasure of decorating the tree. This year was extra special as my brothers were with us before Christmas and got to help decorate the tree for the first time in several years. It was so much fun!

The tree in all its poorly photographed glory

The tree in all its poorly photographed glory

The tree from another angle

The tree from another angle, still not photographed well

All of the decorations out of their protective tissue and ready to go on the tree

All of the decorations out of their protective tissue and ready to go on the tree

I have a few close-ups of some of my favourite ornaments but there are so many more! Look away know if you think this might bore you and be greatful I’m not showing every single one.

Believe it or not this one is plastic but I love the beautiful shape and the white glitter surface

Believe it or not this one is plastic but I love the beautiful shape and the white glitter surface

This is blown glass, opaque white, with a sugar-like frosting over it

This is blown glass, opaque white, with a sugar-like frosting over it

This is porcelain, with beautiful cut outs

This is porcelain, with beautiful cut outs

THis little bird is porcelain. The white is hard to photograph but it is beautifully faceted to show details of wings and feathers

This little bird is porcelain. The white is hard to photograph but it is beautifully faceted to show details of wings and feathers

Another of this years - a white feather inside a glass bauble

Another of this years – a white feather inside a glass bauble. You can see a bit more detail on the porcelain bird too.

One of a set of four giant butterflies

One of a set of four giant butterflies, and an owl from this year’s set

This is from this year - it's a silver painted pine tip inside a glass onion shaped bauble that is in turn decorated with floral emblems

This is from this year – it’s a silver painted pine tip inside a glass onion shaped bauble that is in turn decorated with floral emblems

Most of the clear baubles were too hard to photograph on the tree - they all showed a reflection of me and my camera!

Most of the clear baubles were too hard to photograph on the tree – they all showed a reflection of me and my camera!

A selection of textile decorations - velvet, satin, and cord

A selection of textile decorations – velvet, satin, and cord

This little glass bird with tail feather was given to me by MrsC for Christmas a few years ago, who didn't at the time know I was collecting white decorations!

This little glass bird with tail feather was given to me by MrsC for Christmas a few years ago, who didn’t at the time know I was collecting white decorations!

The only hand made decorations on the tree, and the only ones not from me - crocheted snow flakes received as part of an ornament swap Mum participated in. How embarrassing!

The only hand made decorations on the tree, and the only ones not from me – crocheted snow flakes received as part of an ornament swap Mum participated in. How embarrassing!

In that first year Mum bought a bunch of cheaper silver decorations as fillers as it was so tricky to find white. Over 10 years her collection has built up quite a lot so this year I am taking home with me all the no longer needed silver fillers. Why is that?

Well, after 9 years in Wellington I have not once spent a Christmas day at home – I have always travelled north and loved it. And in that time I’ve not once bothered to put up my own Christmas tree as I didn’t see the point in putting it up when I’m away for three weeks. But we have decided that hopefully, next Christmas, family will come to us in Wellington! Oh how wonderful! And even before we’d decided that I decided I’m going to put up a tree every year anyway, and enjoy one of my favourite celebrations just that little bit more.

But I only have a tiny selection of decorations to my name.

Oh yes, I have big plans for next Christmas, regardless of where it is!

First I have to resolve my own Christmas Aesthetic Dilemma (CAD) – do I go for red, white, and silver as my theme or peacock colours in blue, green, and silver? I like colour themed trees and want to pick one of these two. Or maybe black and gold and steampunk? Ok, one of these three. Definitely one of these.

I’ve also realised that in 10 years of acquiring beautiful decorations for Mum I’ve never actually made any – and that is going to change, although she doesn’t know that yet! (EDIT – OK, she knows it now as she read my draft. But she doesn’t know what!) So I am looking forward to producing a selection of handmade decorations and accessories, both for my own tree (post solving of the CAD) and for Mum’s tree. I’m already looking forward to next Christmas so much – and to posting about it! Maybe even on time, with decent photos!

Tis the season…

6 Jan

…and what a season it is. I love Christmas and I love summer and I love that they occur together. Of course, I’ve only ever known them to occur together so I am a product of my experiences, but I recall as a child that when I finally realised that other places had Christmas during winter I felt very sorry for those people.

Every year for the last 10, from when I moved away from my childhood city of Auckland to my current home of Wellington, Christmas and my summer holiday have revolved around travelling north for family and fun. My partner G’s family are in Whangarei and my family have been in Auckland for most of this time although they’ve progressively moved further north and are now based in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. G tends to spend Christmas with his family, staying in our little bach, and I spend Christmas with my family.

After a week of reduced sleep from working longer than normal hours and then staying up late wrapping presents for our trip, getting pattern pyramid prizes wrapped for posting, and doing all the last minute things you do when you leave your home for three weeks, we got to the beginning of our precious holiday! On the morning of the 21st of December G and I undertook our annual ritual of cramming almost everything we own (or at least it feels like that) into our van, and this time adding a trailer with two dirt bikes to the back, before settling in for leg one of our trip, the nine hour drive to Auckland. New Zealand is renowned for its four seasons in one day and this road trip was quite exciting. We left an overcast Wellington and experienced drizzle and grey skies all through the Kapiti coast. Eventually we left the rain and emerged into full summer. We stopped at Taumaranui for diesel and icecream and by this point it was almost 27 degrees with glorious skies. Amazingly less than half an hour after that we hit the edge of a storm and went from blue skies and heat to torrential driving rain, terribly visibility, and so much surface water on the road we were wondering if flash floods were about to hit. A couple hours after that we came out the other side into Auckland, which was cloudless and stinking hot  – and had been all day. I had plans to take photos of pohutukawa and other beautiful sites along the way but cell phone photos out of a moving van do not nice photos make.

We stayed with good friends in Auckland then were up early the following day for leg two, the four hour trip so that G could drop me at my mum’s house in Kerikeri. We also picked up one of my baby brothers, the Muso, on the way, which was so exciting as I hadn’t seen him since last Christmas! My other baby brother, the Artist, was living with mum until just now so he was already in Kerikeri and there was much delight all round at the family being reunited.

I should clarify – Muso Brother is 19 and Artist Brother is almost 17 and both of them tower over me, so calling them my baby brothers is a bit overstated – but they’ll be my baby brothers forever.

Poor G – when my family was further south his stop in Whangarei was also the furthest north, but now he has to drop me off than double back. He stayed in Kerikeri the night of the 22nd and we had a wonderful night as he caught up with my mum, her partner SB, and my brothers, then he left the following day to head to his place.

Pavlova, just one of our many tasty Christmas treats.

Pavlova, just one of our many tasty Christmas treats.

Christmas was wonderful. We decorated our beautiful tree together and I helped my brothers choose Christmas presents for Mum. It was the first time in maybe 5 or 6 years that my brothers have been able to spend Christmas morning with me and our mum and it was magical.

On the day itself there was much laughter and face pulling and squeals of delight. It poured with rain while my Facebook feed filled up with people saying that my (traditionally colder and windier) city was hot and calm. And I didn’t care.  There was much laughter and pulling of crackers with terrible toys and worse jokes. We wore paper hats until they disintegrated, or in my case drove me crazy by falling into my eyes. There was hilarity and love and good times. Our gorgeous cat Nike joined in and even got a catnip windup mouse that had her briefly entertained until she decided it was too much like effort. Then she was adorned with a paper hat as well.

Me and Artist Brother just before we start opening presents. Artist Brother is 16 - he couldn't help himself.

Me and Artist Brother just before we start opening presents. Artist Brother is 16 – he couldn’t help himself.

Artist Brother helping Nike the cat unwrap her present.

Artist Brother helping Nike the cat unwrap her present.

Muso Brother and Nike wearing their paper hats.

Muso Brother and Nike wearing their paper hats.

Everyone was delighted with the perfectly chosen things they received and I was the lucky recipient of a wonderful range of goodies! I won’t share all of it but the highlights have to be Knitpro interchangeable circular knitting needle set (three different sized tips and three different length cables, and OH they are lovely to knit with – I cast on on Christmas Day!), hand knitted Dr Who dish cloths, and a Yoda Lego-styled key ring, all from Mum; and a Yoda USB stick and Star Wars recipe book with Star Wars biscuit cutters, from my brothers.

Knitting tools! Dr Who! Star Wars! My family know me well…

My pun-laden Star Wars recipe book (Mueslie Admiral Ack-Bars! Wookie Cookies! ) and biscuit cutters, which I have a general obsession with and therefore a huge obsession.

My pun-laden Star Wars recipe book (Muesli Admiral Ack-Bars! Wookie Cookies! ) and biscuit cutters, which I have a general obsession with and therefore a huge collection.

Yoda USB stick and Lego key ring (with LEDs in the feet!)

Yoda USB stick and Lego key ring (with LEDs in the feet!)

Tardis dishcloth knitted by Mum...

Tardis dishcloth knitted by Mum…

...which goes with my Weeping Angel dishcloth...

…which goes with my Weeping Angel dishcloth…

...and my Dalek dishcloth!

…and my Dalek dishcloth!

In the days after Christmas there was much hanging out with brothers, listening to Muso Brother’s compositions and looking at Artist Brother’s drawings and talking about our favourite bands and our other hobbies (Muso Brother does rugby reffing, Artist Brother does archery) as well as some more deep and meaningful conversations. Muso Brother has just finished his first year studying audio engineering and music composition and Artist Brother is just about to start his first year studying animation and art and they told me all about their courses. I listened to them playing video games with each other while I sat and knitted. I taught them some basic rock and roll jumps because you don’t have to be able to dance to do the jumps and how cool is it to know you can catch a girl when she leaps into your arms! I cracked up laughing at the non-stop barrage of quips and jokes they made. Basically I got reminded all over again that I officially have the most amazing brothers in the whole world and I am so proud of them and adore them to pieces.

Showing Muso Brother where to catch me

Showing Muso Brother where to catch me

Me mid-leap into Artist Brother's arms

Me mid-leap into Artist Brother’s arms

And after being caught by Muso Brother.

And after being caught by Muso Brother.

They headed to their dad’s place in the north of Auckland on New Year’s Eve and after being sad to see them go, our New Year’s was very quiet, just me, Mum, and SB, at home. I really wanted to go to bed about 10.30 but I decided to see the New Year in so I knitted while I waited for the New Year and stuffed up an entire row because I was so tired. Lesson learned – don’t knit when tired. Mum fixed it.

My knitting at the end of Christmas Day on my new Knitpro needles

My knitting at the end of Christmas Day on my new Knitpro needles

Mid cutting out the new seat cushion

Mid cutting out the new seat cushion

In the days since then I have powered through my knitting, almost finished a giant seat cushion, had lots of cuddles with Nike (who has taken to sleeping with me at night, although I’ve had to convince her that sleeping on my chest is not polite), been exploring the local area with Mum and SB, bought brightly coloured yarn from a friend of Mum’s who imports it, and acquired some fabric from the local store. After the initial rain went away there has been glorious sunshine and heat to go with it with one brief tropical thunderstorm over one evening and there has been much ice cream and fresh fruit, both of which I adore. It’s pretty much the perfect summer holiday.

Pohutukawa tree in bloom on one of our trips exploring the area. It's not fancy effects, my poor cell phone couldn't cope with the amount of light on the beautiful sunny day.

Pohutukawa tree in bloom on one of our trips exploring the area. It’s not fancy effects, my poor cell phone couldn’t cope with the amount of light on the beautiful sunny day.

Pohutukawa flower held in my hand for scale

Pohutukawa flower held in my hand for scale

Nike giving me snuggles - she likes to nestle into my neck. Sorry Fissy and Walnut, you guys may be more photogenic but Nike is still the smoochiest, cutest, snuggliest cat and my favourite.

Nike giving me snuggles – she likes to nestle into my neck. Sorry Fissy and Walnut, you guys may be more photogenic but Nike is still the smoochiest, cutest, snuggliest cat and my absolute favourite kitty.

I’m still at Mum’s now, soaking up the last of my holiday time with her, and on Monday morning I will be heading to Whangarei to spend a couple of days with G and his family and hopefully do some fishing before our return trip over Thursday and Friday. My time has been focused on family and crafting and hugging Nike, with very little in the way of technology – my blog reader had 377 items in it at one point! I was originally planning on posting this before New Year so that I could do my obligatory 2013 planning post round about now. I’ve had so much fun with my family and been so determined to finish a couple of crafting projects while Mum is around to help me that I haven’t really minded the lack of computer time – although I will catch up on everything soon!