Friday, 31 October 2014

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Pots from Old Jeans by Wendy

I'm very proud to say that I am Joe's mum and fortunate that Jenny is now part of our family. Joe's old bedroom is now a guest room ( with a fold down bed made by his dad ) and my workroom were I can surround myself with fabrics and be inspired.

This week I have made a couple of fabric storage pots from the legs of old jeans. One pair were black the other standard blue ( slightly harder to sew as they are stretch ones). I tried to find some with the least flare from my box of discarded jeans. 

I used an 8 inch section from a leg plus a circle. If you can't cope with working out how big to cut the circle, by measuring across the leg x 2 to get circumference and doing the maths, try putting "circle calculator" into Google and it will work out the maths for you. Do remember to measure the denim tube along the seam allowance not the bottom raw edge and add the same seam allowance to the circle either on the pattern or as you cut it.


For the lining I used some cotton fat quarters from my fabric stash and some extra firm heat and bond interfacing. I would normally iron the interfacing to the outside fabric but I did not want to unpick the side seams so fused it to the main body of the lining on the sides but to the denim on the base.

Folding the lining fabric and placing the leg section on top, so one side of leg is along the fold, I cut out the lining the same size at the top and bottom but leaving a seam allowance down the side which I marked with a prym trickmarker. This seam was then pinned and stitched.

This tube was attached to the denim tube ( wrong sides together ) at one end. Pulled right side out and pressed, then top stitched on the denim through the layers of the seam.

The base circle of denim and a matching circle cut out of the lining were pinned then machine tacked together. I marked both the circle and the denim end of the tube in 4 equal places along the sewing lines ( not the edges) to help join them together. I pinned then machined along the stitching line twice to make it strong. You may need to tack it first to ensure you don't get pleats or puckers.



Clip the curves then fold the lining down the sides and ladder stitch into place by hand.

Turn right side out and fold down the cuff.

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Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Week That Plans Changed

We had a great weekend in Okarito. Our hope had been to spend some time on Saturday exploring the glaciers at Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, but once we'd driven over to the towns we found the cloud base to be really low along with frequent showers which made the idea distinctly unappealing! We headed back to our quiet seaside spot and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon fossicking for greenstone on the beach, enjoying a coffee at the local coffee shop, and (unsuccessfully) hoping to hear a kiwi at dusk.
Mt Tasman over Okarito lagoon

Sunday dawned much brighter allowing us to enjoy a morning kayaking on the lagoon at Okarito. We didn't see as many of the wading birds as we'd hoped, but did at least get to watch several of the white herons that are unique to that part of the world. Sunday afternoon we finally got to see Fox Glacier which was fairly impressive, though the camera battery was dead so we don't have much to show for it!

Some of the best weather we saw all day at Wanaka

We took the opportunity of another wet day to get a lot of driving done, skipping down to the very south coast and some time in the Catlins including a trip to the most southerly point on mainland New Zealand. The hills here are a much bleaker landscape than the mountains we'd become accustomed to on the west coast, but very pretty in their own way. The wind was rather viscous along this coastline as we found out to our detriment as we tried to pitch our tent on Tuesday night. Caught in a gust mid pitching we ended up with one of the poles snapped and forcing it's way through the canvas in a way that would make you wince if it was someone's arm, on top of which the other two poles were bent too. We cut our losses and drove on to a hostel for the night while we could work out a plan.

The most southerly point of New Zealand

Resigned to the fact that our tent isn't fixable we decided to cut our time on the South Island a little short as we couldn't sort an alternative in Christchurch so going north was the was way forward. While this has meant not seeing quite as much here, it should enable us to see areas of the north we were going to have to skip over initially so the loss isn't huge. We've found this week that most larger campsites here also have a set of basic cabins containing simply a couple of beds and access to the communal kitchen and bathrooms which has been an ideal short term solution, though we're now looking forward to having a bit more flexibility again. 

One or two red billed gulls nesting

With only a few days to see the highlights of the east coast we've been doing a bit of a whistle stop tour. We spent a morning at the Royal Albatross Observatory where the birds were just arriving for their breeding season. One male was sitting fairly close to the hide making his nest, which was great but hard to get an idea of the size of these enormous birds. We did also finally manage to see one in flight where it clearly dwarfed the neighbouring gulls.

Feeding time with the disabled penguins

An afternoon at the International Antartic Centre provided us with much amusement, complete with a ride in an Haagland (overland all terrain vehicle), time in a blast chiller to get the true Antartic experience (!), and feeding time at the penguin rescue where they look after various blind and lame birds. We also stopped in at the Ashford Craft/Factory shop where Joe got some advice on how to adjust part of his spinning wheel and resisted the urge to just buy a new flyer, or any wool for that matter! Thoughts of excess baggage are doing wonders to curb shopping tendencies!

Near Hanmer Springs

One of our overnight stops was in the town of Hanmer Springs, so naturally we went and spent some time unwinding in the thermal waters - a great way to unwind before continuing the next leg of our journey. We made it back to Picton on Friday evening and then took great pleasure in doing as little as possible on Saturday morning before checking in for our ferry at lunchtime. I say as little as possible... there might have been quite a bit of knitting involved! Our ferry crossing turned out to be an hour late and a rather choppy crossing, much less pleasant than our outward leg, but after a good two weeks on the South Island we're now back to the north and the next stage of our journey.


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Friday, 24 October 2014

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kitchen Gadget 10. Kenwood Chef

Earlier this year we wrote a post about the accessories that we use with our Kenwood Chef and the time has finally come to talk about the main beast!

Afforded pride of place on our worktop since it was given to us as a wedding present we've used this for all sorts over the years. Before we got a bread machine this was our main workhorse for kneading our bread; now it has a slightly easier life but is still called on to whip up cakes, pastry, scones, profiteroles or whatever tickles our fancy.

It's great for those jobs where a longer period of effort is needed. Such as the constant whipping needed for a good meringue...

Italian Meringue

4 Egg Whites
160g Sugar
160ml Water

1. Using the Kenwood, whisk the egg whites into a soft peak.

2. Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar in the water over a high heat. Once dissolved, continue to cook the sugar syrup over a medium heat until it reaches 121C.

3. After bringing the sugar up to temperature turn the mixer speed up to high and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites.

4. When all the sugar has been incorporated turn the mixer down to a medium speed and keep whisking until the meringue is back to room temperature. You should now have a lovely glossy meringue ready to use however you like; though if I could make a suggestion, perhaps to top off Joe's Strawberry Layered Cake.

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Birds and Beaches

With our ferry from Wellington to Picton on Monday lunchtime we spent Sunday night in the city and had a chance to visit Te Papa - a large museum that attempts to tell the story of New Zealand from the first settlers, through the European settlers several centuries later, to the present day. A really interesting visit. We also took the opportunity of being in a large city to sort out Joe's thermarest (a self inflating rollmat) which had started to delaminate meaning that the layers were seperating and a pillow of air was forming where it shouldn't be! The area with the problem was slowly getting larger, not very practical for the start of a months camping. Fortunately there was an outdoor shop which sold them who put us in touch with the New Zealand distributers - just 20mins drive away - who confirmed that it wasn't fixable and handed Joe a brand new equivalent. It reminded us why it's sometimes nice to have kit with a lifetime guarentee!

It was a beautiful, if breezy, afternoon for our ferry crossing and that continued as we pitched up our tent in a tiny campsite on the banks of the Queen Charlotte Sound. While there we had out first encounter with a Weka - a flightless bird which is rare but curious and well known for stealing the odd teaspoon or sock from campers in this part of the world. This one kept us very amused checking out our tent, stove and almost empty porridge pan. The area was teeming with wildlife and the bay filled with jellyfish once dusk set in, the river bank was covered with glow worms during the night and we watched blue penguins swimming in the distance over breakfast. We really couldn't have asked for more.

We've spent a lot of time in the car this week, keeping an eye out all the time for the lookout points and walks that appear in all the prettiest points. One such walk - an hour loop along the coastline - had us watching spotted shags and pied shags nesting in trees just off the path. Each night we've pitched up the tent, often on beach front campsites, and set up the stove for a cup of tea and then dinner and a walk along the shore to see what there is to be seen - often a variety of gulls and oyster catchers. 

We've stopped in each of the main towns as we've passed through, enjoying the different range of shops and some of the Art Deco style architecture  that seems to be around a lot. Nelson was the largest of these, complete with closing down outdoor shop for a few bargains and an area surrounded by wineries. We had a quick change of plan and ended up spending two nights in the area rather than one, allowing us to explore properly and to do a wine tasting! The sun just kept shining through this part of the week really adding to the Mediterranean atmosphere. That was all about to change though as we ended the week with a drive down the west coast. I don't know what it is about west coasts but just like Scotland this one is known for its midges and rain and is living up to its expectations! That said the rain has by no means been constant and we've had some lovely sunny patches as well. 

We spent Thursday night at Punakaiki which is famous for it coastal rock formations. Having visited the Dorset coastline so often I think we've been spoilt for interesting geology - though the pancake rocks and blowholes were still definitely worth a visit. On the same stretch of coastline we also explored a cavern just signposted from the side of the road - putting our head torches to good use to wander through the high ceilinged caves. There are so many bits like that here that are looked after by the Department of Conservation and are advertised with just a simple sign. You're left to your own devices to explore in a rather refreshing way.

This weekend we're camping in Okarito - on the coast again, well positioned for a bit of time exploring the glaciers at Fox and Franz Josef, but also for the kayaking trip along a wildlife wetland we've booked for tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed the weather is better for that than last night - we're still drying out the clothes we were wearing as we pitched the tent! Have a good week everyone.

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Life's a Game 10: Carcassonne by Rachel

This year we're sharing with you our game of the month. These are all favourites from our collection, or ones we play with our friends.

Octobers game is Carcassonne and is brought to you by Rachel, a good friend and a fellow lover of board games:

Chris and I have acquired a good cupboardful of games over the years but Carcassonne remains a firm favourite. I think one of the main reasons is that - whilst we thrive on having friends over for games evenings - on the odd occasion it’s just the two of us. Most of our preferred games fall at this hurdle, fortunately though Carcassonne is just as enjoyable and challenging with 2 players as it is with 6.

Chris likens Carcassonne to a big jigsaw puzzle, as you start the board with just one tile and build the rest as you go. On your turn you pick up a tile from a facedown pile and place it so it fits (city to city, road to road or field to field) orthogonally to another tile. You can then place your Meeple on the tile you have just placed (and not anywhere else!).  The options:

1. Place your Meeple into a city

2. Place your Meeple on a road


3. Place your Meeple on the field to make him a farmer.


4. Do nothing. A perfectly legitimate move as you have a limited number of Meeple. Once you’ve put them on the board they’re stuck there until you ‘complete’ the city or road. In the case of farmers they are stuck for the rest of the game!

The next person then picks up a tile and you keep going until you have run out of tiles. Now Meeple are quite protective of their property – so once you have claimed a city, road or field it is YOURS. Nobody else can just add a tile on and decide they want to join you. (unless they’re sneaky but we’ll get to that later).

So, how do you actually win this game? As usual, it’s about points.  There are 3 main ways to score points:

1. Complete a city that your Meeple is in. You get 2 points for each tile, so the blue Meeple has just finished a city and would normally get 2 points for 3 tiles = 6 points. Luckily for him he’s got a blue and white shield, so that gives him a bonus 2 extra points – making a total of 8. (The yellow city is still open as it doesn’t have a wall going all the way around it)


2. Complete a road that your Meeple is on. This is when both ends are closed. You get a mere 1 point for each tile, so it’s not as prestigious as a city.

3. Farming a field, which doesn’t happen right until the end of the game.  By the end the board will probably be split into 2 or more farms. The edge of a farm is marked by road, city walls and the edge of the board – see the board below. They can be notoriously difficult to spot, (especially on larger boards) and it takes a few times of playing to become adept at seeing them. Each complete city in your farm is worth 3 points.  If a city isn’t complete it’s worthless for a farmer. So here there are 3 points for 4 cities = 12 points. Farms can really swing the end of the game – adding some extra tension.

(If you have expansions, your board will be much, much bigger than this as you get more tiles with each expansion).

Now you’ve got the fairly mundane mechanics of the game, here comes the interesting part. Depending on your level of competitive-ness and mood you may wish to be sneaky and ‘join other Meeple’ in their ventures (ie steal from them!) You can join them indirectly by placing your Meeple into a new city, etc. and then placing a tile to join them together.

For example:

The yellow Meeple has just started their own city. It is not joined to the blue Meeple city at the moment (you can’t join diagonally) so they can get away with it.

However, a move later the yellow Meeple has put down a tile joining the two cities together.

This can happen for cities, roads and (is most common) for farms. When you end up sharing it’s fine – in fact a joint venture can even help you both get more points. However, it’s a tightrope to walk – can you trust your partner? For instance if yellow sneaks in another Meeple so there are 2 yellow Meeple and only 1 blue Meeple, blue gets nothing! How ruthless are you?

I have to confess I haven’t fully explained all the ins and outs or even more obscure ways of scoring points. But you’ve heard enough from me, the best thing is just to give it a go now. Honestly, it’s much easier to play than to explain! Besides where would be the incentive to play if I explained about the expansion when the Dragon gobbles Meeple and there are magic portals?
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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Chicks and Camping

We've successfully finished off our time as Wwoofers and all said and done it's been a really positive experience. Alastair and Suzie have been great hosts and we've enjoyed getting stuck in to all the jobs around the place. We've had our last four working days this week and we've spent them doing everything from mowing lawns, to making cheesecakes (homemade cheese of course), to laying gravel on the parking area.

We've been putting a big push into the car park as this is a task we started on our first day at Earthstead, slowly clearing the weeds and taking it back to sand, and we didn't want to leave without seeing it finished. Thursday afternoon was spent collecting trailer loads of gravel from the neighbours house and spreading it over the area and with everyone working on it the transformation was very quick and very satisfying to see.

Friday saw us saying our goodbyes to those at Earthstead and moving on to the next part of our trip... several weeks of travelling, camping and seeing what we can of New Zealand. It's a strange feeling to be free and on the road again after our three weeks of wwoofing but I'm sure we'll settle into it soon enough. Last Sunday saw us spending time with Al and Suzies family, and for Joe that meant helping with the butchering of a couple of deer that had been shot by Al's nephew the day before. It seems that hunting is much more prevalent and seen as the norm here - something we're having to adjust to. In return for his help Joe was given a bag of venison steaks and we've been feasting on those this weekend - nothing like starting our camping trip with some quality food. 

We're heading for the South Island at the start of next week and so the plan for the weekend was to get from Cambridge to Wellington in three legs. We started our travels with a visit to Maungatautari Ecological Reserve - an area of land that is kept predator free to safeguard the native birds. We had an interesting couple of hours wandering along the forest tracks watching the fantails dance around us and the kaka work their way around the trees on the hunt for something tasty - making good use of the binoculars we borrowed for the trip. 

The rest of the day was spent driving to our first campsite. New Zealand is scattered with campsites run by the department of conservation which we intend to use regularly. They are very reasonably priced (often free, as Fridays was) and have limited facilities but are situated in the quiet peaceful spots that we love about camping. This particular one caught our eye because it was well positioned for Saturdays drive - a trip along the "forgotten world highway".

This took us most of the day and lived up to all our expectations. View after view opened up and we really did feel like we were in the middle of nowhere. The landscape was all wonderfully hilly and the road wound it's way along ridges and through passes, and at times became just a gravel track before returning to tarmac again. We've commented multiple times since arriving here about how the hills seem pointier than we'd expect. I'm not sure how else to describe it but these are certainly not England's rolling hills. As we were travelling along this highway Joe's description was "it feels like North Wales... But squashed together" - and that's about as close as we're going to get to putting a finger on the difference.

We spent most of Saturday in the car with the expeception of a detour to see Mt Damper Falls (yes another waterfall - get used to it) which was a very pleasant 20min walk through farmland and another impressive drop with a beautiful valley stretched out beneath it. It was well worth the stop, particularly as the weather was lovely and sunny. The forgotten world highway finishes in Stratford and we stopped for icecream (just the one tub!) before making headway for the campsite on the seafront near Whanganui. A very pleasant campsite and being right on the beach and we couldn't resist an after dinner wander, We had to dodge the occasional car as apparently driving on the beach is quite normal, and were astounded by the amount of driftwood that had been washed up along it - there were huge pieces of wood just sitting there for the taking and left us wondering what we would do with it if we lived a little closer!

And that's where this weeks story ends except to leave you with a photo of one of Earthsteads latest arrivals; seven Arucana chicks.

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Friday, 10 October 2014

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Patchwork Cushion

The stairs in our house seem to have become a natural seat. As they extend by a few steps into the kitchen / dining room people tend to perch a few steps up to join the conversation in the kitchen but stay out the way. We had a lump of foam left from another project so I decided to make a narrow cushion to sit on the stairs. The only fabric that matched the current d├ęcor was the box of denim so out it came. I decided to go a bit patchwork on it...

Sew strips together, 1" between seams. Note the 45 degree lines marked on - this is to aid alignment as this section makes the corner.

Add more strips, trimming and ironing seams as you go.

And more strips...

Corner done. Sew together two wider strips to make the remainder. Attach at 45 degrees to the corner.

Everything lined up and marked ready to sew on the backing. Note the button hole that becomes the hanging loop.

Pin right sides together with the backing fabric. I used a thick calico for this. Don't forget to enclose the hanging loop.

Sew three sides, trim and press. Turn the right way round before inserting the foam, rolling in the bottom seam and sewing shut.


And hanging from the edge of the stairs- the stripes matching the direction of the stairs is sheer luck!

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