Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Snapshots from March 2016

 Hi friends, here is my little update from March in phone photos. These first photos were actually taken earlier in the year in January, when I had an ATC swap with a lovely lady in Japan who I met on Instagram. I hadn't made ATCs in a few years and it was fun to sit down and play a bit with papers and pencils. Styling them for photos was just as much fun. I didn't want to share them until she received them, and then of course I forgot about the photos for a while! So, here they are.

 We had beautiful warm weather throughout most of March. The garden thrived with the warmth and a few evening showers from the sprinkler. Cosmos, roses and dahlias are rampant.

 And of course, Podrick and Inigo arrived this month. They are settling in most beautifully and entertaining themselves and me with lots of things around the house. (They were very enthusiastic helpers when I had some beans to shell.)

 I made a few more Jan Eaton squares. The idea is that each square is different, so I feel free to play with different colours and patterns. It's fun and I'm enjoying working the colours together. The squares are really big too so it should have a nice patchwork feel.

 I've also done some more of the centres of my Circle Puff Squares. I'm really enjoying this project as something I can just pick up to work on any time without having to think too hard... I love the colours and the pattern so it's always enjoyable. I have one more colourway to do and then I'll add the last round in grey to turn the circles into squares.

 Easter fell at the end of the month. I got my Easter branch out and hung my decorated eggs. I then felt the need for more decorated eggs, so I got some more plastic eggs and applied some gold Peelcraft stickers. I coloured them in with Copic markers and finally varnished them with Glossy Accents, to give a faux enamel look. Seam binding ribbon gave the finishing touch.

I haven't spent a lot of time at my computer this month, hence the lack of posts. I've been busy with plenty of other things like reading, crochet, drinking coffee, gardening and playing with my kittens. It's been a great month though - hope yours was too.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Kittens!


 Hi friends... it's about time I introduced you to the 2 newest members of the family! Meet Inigo and Podrick, 14 week old identical twin brothers. They've been living here for about 2 1/2 weeks which is the main reason I haven't blogged in that time as they have been taking up all my attention.

 I got them from Cat Rescue Christchurch, a great organisation which neuters and releases stray cats, and rehomes abandoned cats and kittens. The mother of these kittens was a stray who was neutered and released, and the kittens were raised in a foster home until they were ready for adoption. When I emailed Cat Rescue to see if they had any kittens available I thought it would take weeks to arrange, especially since I'd heard there was a kitten shortage in Christchurch. However they replied straight away that these two had just been listed, and I adopted them the following weekend.

I always wanted two cats, and when the time came to get another cat, I decided it would be a good idea to get two kittens at the same time. I figured they are still young enough to adjust to living with another feline, and would be good company for each other. Even better, these two are brothers and they get along with each other as happily as I'd hoped! They play together all the time, sleep together, eat together and even use the litter box together! So yes, they are great company for each other and while they love playing with humans, they also run and chase and tumble together which is great for burning their enormous stores of energy!


We are using the lounge room as their base for eating and sleeping. Before they arrived I tidied everything up and put some things away in this cabinet. Naturally, one of the first things they did was to go behind the cabinet, find the small hole in the back for cords, and wiggle through it. Of course as soon as one kitten was through the other was hot on his heels and they were both into my basket of yarn! I fished them out and stuffed cushions behind the TV cabinet which luckily put an end to that.

 This is Inigo Montoya (named for a character in The Princess Bride) - Ini for short. He is a bit smaller than his brother and we originally thought he was timid. It's actually more that he thinks before he acts, so he hangs back and observes before charging in (unlike his brother). He wears a blue collar, and has a slightly wider nose and heavier brows. He loves to sit in the window and look out.

This is Podrick Payne (looking very surprised in this shot) - Pod for short, named for a character in Game of Thrones. He's rounder and heavier than his brother and very curious and confident. He doesn't think very hard before he rushes into a new situation, so hopefully Ini can teach him some restraint! He has slightly more delicate features and a cute walrus moustache with lighter cheeks, and he wears a black collar.

I can't believe how much these two have grown in the 2 1/2 weeks they've been here. They are settling in well and enjoying daily life. And it's so nice to have not just one, but two cats around the house again.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Snapshots from February 2016

Here we are looking back at the month of February. If January was rainy and unsettled, then February was the complete opposite with an incredibly regular schedule of warm summery days. It was pretty perfect actually, exactly what summer should be like! And after our cold start to spring (with some of the coldest November mornings on record) it turned out that February was the warmest on record. I guess that is climate change for you, and one day it won't even be unusual to have such extreme temperatures.

Dahlia season is in full swing. I like how dahlias can't help being bold, even when their colours are soft! I also love the faded petals on top of the lambs' ears leaves.

As usual I made time for reading and crochet.

I changed up the kitchen shelf display to some summery colours. The day after I put these teacups out, we had a 5.7 earthquake. Amazingly the teacup stack didn't topple, although everything on the shelf shuffled closer to the edge! It seems we'll never be free of these earthquakes, never quite be able to relax from the idea of having to always be prepared. So I stuck everything down again with Blutack. It's annoying when you want to get things down and use them, but at least it keeps the pretties safe!

These are a couple of projects from this month. I finished a cover for the kitchen stool, and continued with the centres of Circle Puff Squares.

My brother helped me put up some boards in the hallway, and then I mounted hooks on them. The boards line both sides of the hallway. They are great for hanging flowers and plants, and keys.

I also had an ATC swap with a lovely lady from Japan, who I met on Instagram. On the left is her beautiful ATC. 

More crochet! I want to finish the Circle Puff Blanket, and I enjoy working on the pretty pastel circles. But suddenly I needed to do something different, so I started making some random squares. They are from Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Squares book. They will go together into a sort of patchwork blanket, eventually.

Some more dahlias, in remembrance of 22 Feb 2011. And another random square for the blanket.

Can't believe we're in March already! I'm having trouble finding time to blog lately, but I still have some garden updates to get out... hopefully I'll get to them soon! Have a great month everyone.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Potager, Summer 2016

Here are some photos from my summer potager. These photos were taken a good month ago but it's taken me a while to get them edited and uploaded! Still, the garden looks mostly the same (just fuller, bushier and more rampant) so let's have a stroll through the potager.

The lavender hedge attracts tons of bumblebees. They are such funny little garden companions, going about their harvesting business and not caring at all how close I get or whether I shove a camera in their face! They also love the bean and zucchini flowers.

I have Sunset runner beans planted on both arches. The pink flowers add the finishing touch, especially when they mingle nicely with the pansies.

In the First Quarter is a Kumato tomato plant - the only variety I bother growing outside the glasshouse now. Even with very little care besides staking (I haven't even remembered to trim laterals for a while) it's growing strongly and has plenty of fruit. Still, I better get in there and trim some branches so it can ripen! To the left is some broccoli and a cauliflower. To the right is a bare patch where I harvested the garlic - I've since planted bright lights silver beet and more broccoli in the space.

The Cheddar caulis that I sowed in spring did really well and I was able to harvest them at a good size, before there were any caterpillars around to do damage.

On the right in the Second Quarter is sweet corn. It grew strongly from seed but is a bit smaller than previous varieties I have grown, and each plant is only averaging one cob. They taste good but I'd prefer it if I was getting double the yield. I also planted heirloom beans between the corn plants, and there are self seeded pumpkins in there too, bursting out of the garden and hugging everything in their reach. The pumpkins are doing surprisingly well too, setting fruit and all. I've grown pumpkins before, both self seeded and purposely planted, and they never seem to manage to either set much fruit or get it very big. So I'll keep a cautious eye on these and hopefully they will continue to surprise.

Leeks are growing next to the corn. If they can continue to withstand the attack of the pumpkins, there will be a good stash here for winter!

Words to the wise.

Here in the Third Quarter are Borlotti beans. Since taking this photo, the leaves have started turning yellow meaning that it's nearly time to harvest. After that I'll put the bed to bed for winter.

Looking through the arches, past the beans and the pansies and the pumpkins and the rosemary. 

At the very back is my apple tree Monty's Surprise, which is so heavily laden that it's bent right over and I had to tie it to the cherry tree to try and hold it upright! I guess I will need to dig in some really good stakes over winter.

In the meantime there is plenty of harvesting to do - beans, tomatoes, zucchini, spring onions. Time to finish this up and get into the kitchen to deal with some of it!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

February flowers

Welcome to my February flowers post! I noticed as I uploaded this that it's my 500th post. I've also been doing Flowers Monthly for almost 6 years! Far from finding it repetitive, I enjoy the monthly ritual of photographing the garden and flowers and collating them into this mosaic to represent what's been in bloom during the month. I go back and compare with previous years, and even though a lot of the individual blooms are the same, each collage has its own personality. It's a reminder that the garden is always changing and evolving even though the same seasons always follow each other.

Anyway, this month the garden is still fresh, but starting to take on its full, slightly overgrown and overblown look. Roses are still in full bloom, but hydrangea petals are starting to speckle and the first autumn berries have appeared. Above, from top left we have: a pretty striped cosmos; snowberries; a new hydrangea called You and Me; clematis William Keay (in his second flowering flush, yay!); osteospermum; pink penstemon; white frilly fluffy begonia; white echinacea; dahlia Cupcake; swan plant flowers and happy munching caterpillar; rose Sexy Rexy; cactus dahlia. In the middle is a little bouquet featuring a Compassion rose - gorgeously scented and grown from a cutting. I have a post planned soon to tell you more about this season's roses and how the cuttings went.

For now I will sign off and add my post to the list at Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day... have a look for inspiration from all around the world!

For previous Flowers Monthly posts click here.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Snapshots from January

 Hi friends. Here is my first lot of phone snapshots from the new year. The weather was all over the place, keeping a semi-regular schedule of its own... A few day of hot temperatures, then a couple of days of cloud. Some rainy days. Then repeat from the start. The garden (and weeds) are flourishing, and as long as we keep getting the warm temps, I'm not complaining too hard.


 I started the year with a quick project for my niece's 4th birthday. She wasn't super impressed with the handbag to begin with (as she opened it, she muttered to herself, "oh, I hope it's not a hat!") but I'm hoping it will find its way to the dress-up box and be useful in the future! The pattern is from Tangled Happy - if you want to disappoint a 4 year old in your life, you can find it here.

 It was an exciting day when I picked the first tomatoes of the season! These Juliet cherry tomatoes were ready on the 5th of January and they were quickly followed by Orange King... I'll go into more detail about tomatoes in another post, but they are all doing quite well this year.

 I continued working on my Greg blanket. Once all the squares were completed it didn't take too long to join it up, and it was a good way to spend a few grey afternoons.

 Before I went back to work after my summer holiday, I spent a few days with Mum in Timaru. On one day we drove down to Riverstone in Oamaru. This is a restaurant surrounded by lush, mostly kitchen gardens. They grow all their own produce for the restaurant and visitors are free to wander around and take it in. It's quite a drive to get there but worth the effort! We had a lovely wander around the gardens, before sitting on a sheltered bench with coffee and a punnet of delicious locally-grown cherries.

 This is another vista from Riverstone. And a view of my propagation station (set up on the top of a compost bin)... I've said before that you can never have too much lavender!

 Back in my garden, the bees are getting busy. My garden flourishes mostly thanks to the efforts of bumblebees. There are a few honey bees around, but as we all know they are in decline so I'm glad for the work of my bumbly friends!

 I finished The Luminaries on my second read. It was good, but I think could really have been edited into something a lot slicker. There was a lot of unnecessary epilogue stuff at the end, filling out plot points that had already been explained. I also finished Greg (details in this post).

 More tomatoes in my harvest basket - also spring onions, zucchini and beans. The glasshouse is in full on production mode and becoming more of a jungle with each day!

And the month ended on the saddest possible note with the passing of Mr Lui. Still missing him like crazy, but taking heart from these pictures showing him enjoying the everyday pleasures. He mostly had a very happy month.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A post about Lui

 This morning I had to say goodbye to my beloved boy Lui. We had a normal start to the morning where I got up, greeted him, gave him his breakfast and had my own. But when I went to get ready for work I could see that he was not well, so I took him to the vet where they could immediately tell that he had developed a blood clot, apparently caused by an unknown heart defect. There wasn't much to do apart from ease his suffering, so that is what I chose. I brought him home and we laid him to rest in the garden. 

I'm feeling quite devastated but I want to record some of my memories of Lui. I had him for 12 years, ever since my 24th birthday when my friend Carol asked me what I wanted for a birthday present and I replied, "a kitten!" At the time Jon and I were living in a flat where we weren't supposed to have pets but luckily my landlord was forgiving and even installed a cat door for him. The first night I decided to set some ground rules of not having the cat sleep on the bed, so we shut him in the lounge and I warned Jon not to give in even if he cried. Well, he did cry and I lasted all of ten minutes before I got up and let him into the bedroom. He was so happy as he launched himself at the side of the bed and pulled himself up on little kitten paws. He slept where he pleased after that.

 I have to say that having a warm furry presence curled up next to you is one of the best parts of cat ownership. Lui liked to get right under the covers and curl up in the crook of my elbow with his head next to mine. He could stay there all night taking up half the bed and of course I would let him... easing my arm gently out from under him if it started to go to sleep.



He always had an obsession with food. When he was young a vet told us he was overweight and to put him on a diet. We got quite strict with weighing his food and the meals always seemed quite small. Lui thought so too, and so began his obsession with getting more food out of us any way possible, usually by pestering with loud and annoying meows. He would scavenge from rubbish bins, even our neighbours had to weight the lid of their bins to keep him out! (Fortunately he stopped this habit as he got older.) He also loved to be in the kitchen while anyone was cooking and would move in swiftly on the dirty dishes as soon as we sat down to eat. (I ended up turning a blind eye to this in the end, if the dishes were soon to be washed anyway, and one of his nicknames was 'Busboy' since he got them so clean!) We relaxed the diet after a while but food remained one of his life's pleasures. I'm so glad he ate and enjoyed a normal breakfast on his last morning.

 Lui was fairly sedentary, so to help keep his weight down I'd encourage him for walks around the property. I'd often pull a dead leaf from the flax bush and pull it along for him to chase. We live on a quiet street, and sometimes in the evenings (preferably after dark) Lui and I would go for a walk along the street. He absolutely loved that. I would walk slowly along and he would follow behind at a distance, pausing to sniff fences and look up driveways and investigate under parked cars. We'd go a little way up the street, sometimes to the corner, and pause a minute or two, then turn around and head home. That was his favourite part and he would trot along close behind me, until we got almost there and then he would dash past with a "prrrrrraow" to get home first.

 His meal times were breakfast and an afternoon meal. It was supposed to be late afternoon but due to the persistent pestering, it gradually got earlier and earlier till it was about 1.30pm! After that he would find somewhere to sleep for the afternoon, and this spot would vary depending on the season, the weather and his mood. The first thing I always did on arriving home from work would be to look for him in his various possies, and say hello. He'd raise his head and let out a happy "prrraow", and I'd spend a few minutes scratching him under the chin while he purred. Then I'd go about my chores, and we'd meet up in the kitchen to cook tea.

My darling boy, I miss him so much and I don't honestly think there was a more loved cat in all the world. He was happy and content his whole life and I'm grateful I could give him that life. Lui has been a staple fixture on this blog since I started it - my mum once said that he is a very well-documented cat - and he inspired my occasional series "Weird Cat Behaviour". All my older posts about Lui are found under this tag.  As you can see in these photos he loved to sleep, and he is sleeping peacefully now. Thanks for reading. xx

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