Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bookish - Helper and Helper


I was recently sent the gorgeous Helper and Helper from Gecko Press. With Joy Cowley as the author and Gavin Bishop as the illustrator I was really excited to receive this offering.

The book functions a little like Aesop's fables in that it is a series of short stories that invite a little 'moral' in each. The 'morals' aren't stated in the stories it is more that the reader is invited to learn what Snake and Lizard are discovering in their own experiences and relationship.

Each story stands alone but they also unfold and build on each other throughout the book.

Snake and Lizard are 'helpers' they help other animals to solve their dilemmas for a payment. Meanwhile their own relationship is sometimes fraught with the things that beset many close friendships - sharing credit, personality types and eating family members for instance!

The stories are lovely - Bounce (8) read them and loved them and talked to me about them while I was reading it. The stories have an absolutely timeless charm and would also perform well as read aloud and talk about stories. Bishop's illustrations are a lovely accompaniment to them have the same timeless feel as the text.

A beautiful book simply bursting with nuggets of wisdom.

Details - Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley Gecko Press, 2017 $22.99 PB

love you more than Aunty Lizard 49 xxx

Friday, April 21, 2017

Simplicity 3688 - Retreat Sewing Pants

Hey y'all,

So I decided I wanted to have another go at the Simplicity 3688 pants. I have really been enjoying my 'kimono fabric' pair and I picked up some gorgeous soft, wool?, fabric at a major op-shop haul a while ago.

Although I love the colour and print I wasn't going to make a dress or a top so these pants seemed like the right way to go. Having made the pattern before they are a fairly standard construction, although both times the waistband has ended up way too small - I'm not sure if it's my body or the wrong piece of pattern in the envelope... either way there isn't an overlap for a button.

Super pleased with these pants - they are comfortable and stylish without feeling like clown pants. (which is a problem I sometimes feel with patterned pants).

What kind of pants/ trousers do the most work for you in winter?

love you more than floaty pants with a good fit xxx 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bookish - The Changeover

Hi readers,

I really enjoy a good YA and tween/teen novel. Margaret Mahy's The Changeover definitely fits into this category. First published in 1984 and republished this year by Hachette NZ it passes the test of still feeling relevant and not coming across as dated.

I also appreciate that Mahy and other authors like Joy Cowley use completely New Zealand settings.

As the blurb for the book suggests The Changeover is a supernatural novel. My first introduction to Mahy as a child was The Witch in the Cherry Tree, (how I loved the cherry tree on the cover) and this book is witchy too. Personally I'm not massively into witch books and I wouldn't usually pick them up but I was keen to read a non-picture book offering from Mahy and I think the book delivers.

The story uses a strong natural setting with the main character Laura, her mother and little brother Jacko being highly relatable which I think is very effective for the narrative. The novel maintains a good pace and delivers some twists along the way. There is a developing relationship between 2 of the main characters which includes some sexual behaviours (fairly mild in comparison to many novels for this age group) which makes it less appropriate for a younger reader, in my mind.

The novel also explores some of the key teen issues in terms of independence, secrets, crushes, the tension between parents and teens all dealt with without becoming caricatured versions of this stage of life.

A very readable offering for this age level. Mahy is a strong writer who develops sincere and believable characters even when dealing in a supernatural setting. She also spins a great tale.

Details - The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, April 2017 Hachette NZ $19.99. Also available as an ebook.

love you more than a cheeky smile from a little brother xxx

Monday, April 17, 2017

Screen Printing

Hey hey you gorgeous person!

Recently I took a course in screen printing through the Make Company. I love crafty courses and I've been keen to have a go at screen printing for ages. (I last did it when I was about 11!)

It was super fun. The course was run over 2 nights and you made 2 screens.

This is the printing I did on night 2. The little prints will become bean bags for playing with and gifts and the lighthouse has been printed onto some organic cotton bags my sister and I bought last year.

I'm really pleased with the prints. I looked at images of light houses for the lighthouse but just free hand drew it from some of the ideas I liked best. I tend to think of myself as creative but not artistic but I'm learning to embrace my own 'naive' style of drawing.

Now I have the screens and paint I am planning to do some more of these and maybe get my boys to make some screens of their own. Much fun to be had!

What new thing have you tried lately?

love you more than a lighthouse xxx

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bookish - Keep Me Safe


When I saw this title released and the blurb for the book I was quiet intrigued (and a little worried it might be super full on) so I requested it for reading.

The book is Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti. The author is really interesting, having published ebooks for some time. She writes for adults, young adults and children. (Anyone tempted to use the theatre term - triple threat?!)

This was the first book of hers that I have read. The blurb starts with this statement - What do you do when your six-year-old daughter starts telling you about her other mother, her other life? Which I found interesting and also weird. I was hoping it wasn't going to turn into some terribly dark story. The main narrative ends up taking Anna and her daughter Ava from London to Seal (a tiny island in Scotland).

The writing has a very simple style which I found slightly disappointing initially but by the end I was really charmed by the whole story and the ways in which it played out on a lot of levels. The simplicity of style didn't translate into a simple story line. There where some lovely unexpected moments in it.

The story has supernatural themes but dealt with gently and naturally (if that's a thing).

I loved the slightly magical feel of the book and the setting was so beautiful - it made me want to visit Scotland again and especially the tiny islands. It also dealt with human dilemmas in ways that felt really authentic.

This was another one of those books I picked up and read and read until I came to the end.

Glad to have Daniela Sacerdoti on my list of 'will read her books' authors.

What books make you want to travel?

Details - Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti Hachette NZ, April 2017 $29.99 also available as an ebook.

love you more than a raging sea from a safe distance xxxx

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cupcake Bouquets

Hi, hi,

So I love doing courses, especially short ones that have tangible outcomes! So I decided to sign up for the Make Company's cupcake class. In it we were to learn how to make a bouquet of cupcakes using buttercream icing. (I paid to do the class just sharing in case anyone wants more details)

this was the efforts from the whole class

It was a really fun night we learnt how to make the cupcake stand/ presentation part too so we could replicate it at home.

It must be said that of everyone in the class I struggled most with executing the rose. It wasn't much of a surprise to me, I have zero expertise with icing and piping bags and I are not what you'd call 'good friends'!

Still I am super impressed with my efforts and my boys and hubby made all the right noises too. The following afternoon we had little friends over for fluffies and cupcakes and I felt suitably professional! (The friends were 6, 4 and 2!)

What have you made lately that was trickier and more happy making than you expected?

love you more than a patient tutor xxx

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bookish - My Hand to Hold


Latest book for little ones to be landing on our shelves to review is My Hand to Hold by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by Alison Friend. (Isn't that a fabulous last name?)

This sweet rhyming book is one of those ones I would have read to my children when they were little and we were recovering from tantrums and time-outs. It's message is the universal one you try so hard to drill into your babies when they are small - I will love you no matter what.

The illustrations are perfectly in keeping with the text. The colours are soft and there is a nice sense of movement in them.

I can see that this might feel a bit too 'sweet' in illustration and writing for some readers but really I think for young children it's a message they can never hear too much. My 8 year old read it straight out of the envelope and said, "Oh Mum, this book is really lovely and sweet," and he's right. We should never tire of hearing we are always precious no matter what the difficulties we are facing and every child ideally would know that deep down in their bones they are loved - everyday and not based on their performance.

I probably wouldn't pick this up to read to the children I teach but I would buy it as a gift for new parents and young children.

Details - Hachette NZ, April 11th 2017, RRP $19.99 also available as an ebook.

love you more than rabbits holding hands xxx

Monday, April 10, 2017

McCalls 6566 version 2 - hospital wear?


This is my second version of this pattern. It's not as successful as the first one. The fabric is a bit light for the shape and it has a definite hospital vibe!

Also, it's a bit see-through so I need to wear a slip with it which makes it look a bit blah too.

Never mind, I'm a learner and all that! It will probably end up being a nighty in summer.

what's been relegated to your 'not so much' pile of late?

ps - don't you absolutely love these shoes? Handmade in Raglan to your foot measurement. So good! Here is their website. (I don't get anything from that - just the pleasure of pointing you towards NZ made!)

love you more than a teeny-tiny pocket xxx

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Foodied Fun

Hey food lovers,

I was recently offered an opportunity to attend the Christchurch Food Show. Who was I to decline?? So, today a dear friend and I took a day off from Mummy-ing and wandered around the heart of the Horncastle Arena taste testing our way around every stall.

The show was well attended but not so that you couldn't actually make it to the stalls to try all the goodies. Every now and again there would be a rush when a new batch of raspberry panna cotta (oh yes please!) or the like, came out and you had to hold back on using your elbows.

The celebs were out in the demonstration area, which was a really a highlight judging by the way that every seat was filled before they started. I loved the fact that the wonderful Scorpio Books had a stand brimming with recipe books. (Also you got a $10 voucher for their in town book shop when you made a purchase... of course I did!)

I bought The Atlas some wild venison salami and the boys some fudge. I also purchased some limoncello and we got a super cute idea from the adorable Jax who was at the Countdown stand. Lemon curd and cream cheese filled hollow eggs. We'll be making these with our littles this weekend.

We were also provided with Uber rides to and from the show. I downloaded the app and found it super easy to use. We were transported by different people both ways - it was really nice to hear their stories and I was really impressed with how simple and quick it was to use.

The Food Show is on again tomorrow if you need a reason for a day out with a friend - I can recommend it - came home full tummy, some bags of goodies and a generally relaxed and great day out.

If I was going to recommend anything it would have been more coffee options - as a non coffee drinker it didn't really effect me but the one coffee cart was so busy and the nespresso stand was people deep every time we went past.

Despite the look of my photos there was lots of lovely savoury food too including hangi pies!

Thanks to the prshop for this super fun opportunity :-)

love you more than a cream cheese egg with a lemon curd filling xxx

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Bookish - The Little Breton Bistro

Heya lovelies,

I was talking to another friend who has a 40th coming up and she was saying that one of her 40th year projects is 40 books in a year. Given my current book consumption levels I could be a goer for this too!

Recently I've finished reading The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George. 

I started reading with my 'chic-lit' lens on for expectations. On the whole the book delivers well in this genre for me. When I want to escape into a book for pure pleasure - the same way one might watch a movie that doesn't demand much of them - then chic-lit is my go to.

The book follows Marianne as she escapes, or finds herself inadvertently escaping from her rather unloveable husband. To find her dwelling place and destiny in a tiny French village in Brittany. 

If I have a frustration with this book it would be that the husbands character is a little one-dimensional for me. He doesn't have any redeeming features at all - I like reading books that have some subtleties that make characters a little more nuanced than wholly good or bad.

There are quite a lot of French phrases in the novel which would make it enjoyable for those who can speak French. I can't and it didn't stop me following the narrative but I did just jump over those parts.

There are some nice sub-plot lines that go on and a wide array of characters.  I also really liked that this wasn't a love story about 20 something singles who were desperate to find the 'one' and have babies. It's nice to have stories, especially love stories, written about women who are past the 'popular/desirable' age range and portray them as capable of love and desire and capable of attracting and being desired.

A good read for any one who likes the genre and wants to believe in happy endings for women on the wrong side of (list age here!). :-) 

Details  - The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George. Hachette NZ, April 2017 RRP $39.99 also available as an ebook.

love you more than a tiny French town xxx

Monday, April 3, 2017

Retreat Sewing - Boro


Hope life is well in your house. I'm completely not a mender, consequently I wear things with holes in them.
"Did you know you have a whole in your cardy?"
"Yes I actually bought it like that from an op-shop and then I couldn't be bothered waiting for myself to mend it so I started wearing it."
... awkward silence...

Lately I've been getting into Boro - which is a Japanese thing around visible mending. Where we continue to use things rather than throw them when they have tears or holes. Instead of trying to disguise the mending you simply let it be what it is.

These jeans were given to me by my sister with a ripped up knee. Now I know that some people are into the whole ripped clothing thing (I really can't get past how people pay money for something already ripped??!) but it's not really my bag.

I will admit I wore these jeans with rips in them for a good few months - because I am lazy!

At the sewing retreat I got into them with embroidery thread. They are pretty subtle (a surprise for me!) but I love them.

It makes me smile every time I look at them.

Are you a mender? What size is your mending pile?

love you more than new or old embroidery threads xxx

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bookish - Her Mother's Secret

Hi, hi again,

Six weeks off screen entertainment has indeed been good for my 'to read pile'. I recently received Her Mother's Secret from my reviewing wishlist. I picked up the book about 8pm one night and closed it at 11.20pm. (Which is a late night but not too bad for a a full novel).

The novel follows the life of Leonora from her chemist shop in 1918 England through to New York driven by her desire to produce make-up for women and to challenge the traditional views of the time towards women who wore makeup.

The narrative flows well and there are a good range of characters, some thwarted lovers, crushes and betrayals... all the elements that make up the frustration and joy that is 'chic lit'. There are also societal expectations, etiquette and ladies on the prowl for a rich bachelor. And some great dresses!

I enjoyed reading this, it's a nice read on the couch with a cup of tea and chocolate kind of book. There are some good female protagonists and it's always good to get a look into periods of history and how they impacted the people who lived in them.

The book is very strong on the knowing the 'one' as soon as you meet them and has some sex scenes, neither of which I'm much of a fan of. I'm happy to read these kind of novels for what they are and I assume (hopefully correctly) that people realise there's much more to life and amazing relationships that an electrical tingle the first time you lock eyes. Those wee gripes aside I did really enjoy my evening reading this one and I'd be happy to read further books by Natasha Lester.

Perfect for escaping into another time in history with fabulous clothes, love and plenty of women characters and some good looking bachelors thrown in for good measure.

Details - Her Mother's Secret, by Natasha Lester. Hachette NZ, 28th March 2017. RRP $34.99 also available as an ebook.

love you more than a fabulous lipstick xxx

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

McCalls 6614 The Rabbit Hoodie - Retreat Sew

Kia ora,

I'm still going strong on my retreat sewing. I found this 'cross-stitched' rabbit fabric in spotlight a while ago. I just adore the slightly crazy vibe of it.

I decided to try a new hoodie pattern to change things up from the Augusta hoodie I've made recently. This is a unisex pattern McCalls  M6614 and I made the medium in the hopes it would be a reasonably relaxed fit. The fit did end up pretty relaxed but that's good I want hoodies for those sloppy days anyway.

One thing I would change next time is the ribbing - it's really too big and generous and so it doesn't do what it's designed to in terms of creating cuffs.

I don't love the zip but it was in my stash and I didn't have time to race out and find a raspberry coloured one, which would have been my preference.

The Atlas took these pics for me at an old reclamation yard we went to... so much awesome stuff - made me want to build a house out of recycled bits.

How about you - what do you wear on sloppy days?

love you more than a cross-stitched rabbit xxxx

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bookish - See You In the Cosmos

Hey peeps,

I've just put down Jack Cheng's debut novel 'See You in the Cosmos'. The novel is aimed at the tween/teen age category but it's a great read and I think plenty of adults would find it really enjoyable too.

It's tempting to say the book is written in first person but it's actually a transcript for Alex Petroski's golden ipod that he's preparing to launch into the atmosphere for whatever intelligent life is out there. Alex is determined to capture life and sounds to launch with his rocket as part of SHARF (Southwest High Altitude Rocket Festival). However, as the novel unfolds it is the reader who is offered a unique perspective on the world. Gifts and wisdom from the mind of an 11 year old whose perspective is not just different because of who is innately is but, as with all of us, because of what is going on in his world, who he meets and what happens to him along the way.

As a teacher, this novel also challenges me on the children normalise whatever happens in their world front. As adults we have set perspectives on what the world ought to be like, how adults should behave and what levels of care are appropriate for children. Unless we are in the worlds of our young people we have no idea whether what they are experiencing comes anywhere near to what we think it is.

This book is also about community, accepting outsiders, doing what you can for others, embracing the unexpected and accepting that wisdom might come from unexpected places. It's also one of those lovely books where the protagonist is anything but cool but he has no anxiety about what cool is, trying to be cool, and it never seems to occur to him to be anything other than himself. It's a beautiful message delivered effortlessly integrated into the narrative without obviously saying it.

I think this would be a really good one to read and talk about with young people or even just as a read alone book to reflect on. Some of the themes and material covered wouldn't make it accessible for younger (primary aged) readers even though they may have the ability to read it. I look forward to reading more from Jack Cheng - a fabulous and unexpected debut.

Details - PenguinRandomHouse 1 March 2017, RRP $21.00

love you more than a really good burger xxx

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bookish - The Young Magicians and the Thieves' Almanac

Hiya friends,

I've just finished reading The Young Magicians and The Thieves' Almanac by Nick Mohammed.

Pretty much the moment  I finished reading it I started reading it aloud to my boys. I so enjoyed this upper primary/intermediate level novel and I knew it would especially appeal to my 10 year old who is rather partial to magic tricks and science.

I thought the humour was totally on point for this age too - not too swaggery and obvious but also not so subtle that you need to work to figure it out or 'get' it.

The narrative follows four young magicians and their hopeful journey to become part of the Magic Circle. (A famous magic institution in London). As they arrive and form a friendship it will take all of their skills to work out what is really going on - as well as trying to solve some very mysterious crimes along the way.

I like that the protagonists have a genuine and warm friendship with each other without any of them needing to fall in love. I appreciate that they aren't naturally cool kids but neither are they one dimensional geeky stereotypes.

I really hope that the author publishes more books using this fab four and continues to provide humour, mystery and some adventures along the way.

My boys are already loving how much I've read them and I think if another is published they'd both read it independently.

Details - PenguinRandomHouse NZ, March 2017 RRP $21.00

(thanks to PRH for this fab book to review)

love you more than President Pickle loves a roast with ALL the trimmings ;-) xxx

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Retreat Sewing - McCalls 7120


Back with the next retreat sewing instalment. You remember I made McCalls 7120 with the sleeves that were too tight? Well I removed the sleeves and I love it way more now!

So much, I decided to make another one on retreat. The front fabric is an amazing Kaffe Fassett remnant that the very generous Deb gave me. I a-d-o-r-e this fabric - SO much. The back is a piece I picked up from Creative Junk in the great fabric stash score. It's a denim of some description and there was just enough of both fabrics for what I needed.

It should be noted that that wind was absolutely blustering when The Atlas took these photos and the dress is not weirdly shapen in the middle (and neither am I - to the best of my knowledge!)

I think might be my new favourite wardrobe item. I did put patch pockets in denim on the front and then I hated them so I unpicked them - really could I make any improvements to this fabric?

This dress is all the things (except pockets) light, cool, pull on, comfy, beautiful.

Whoot! I love it. I see more of these dresses in 2017.

What could you do with another version of in your wardrobe?

Yes those are my boys playing in the background.

love you more than Kaffe Fassett and that is saying something! xxxx

Friday, March 17, 2017

Retreat Sew - Ruby Dress

Hi, Hi!

As promised here is one of the makes from my recent sewing retreat. Another Ruby dress by Simple Sew. I think this is my 6th or 7th iteration of this particular pattern and I still love it.

These photos are entirely meh but that's what happens first thing in the morning when I'm half asleep and rushing to get to work!

There isn't too much to say about this pattern that I haven't already said. I've had this fabric for a while - I bought it at IKEA when we were living in Australia - how I love IKEA fabric! It's a furnishing fabric so the fullness in the skirt really stands out with the weight of the fabric. I love the scientific looking drawings on it.

Also note the French plait which I managed all by myself!

Tell me I'm not the only one who has made a pattern 7 times and still thinks they might make more of them?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bookish - The Earth Cries Out

'Sup lovelies?

I've just finished reading The Earth Cries Out by Bonnie Etherington. It's different from any other book I've ever read.

I requested it based on the blurb After the accidental death of Ruth's five-year-old sister, their father decides that atonement and healing are in order, and that taking on aid work in a mountain village in Irian Jaya is the way to find it. It is the late 1990s, a time of civil unrest and suppression in the Indonesian province now known as West Papua.

I didn't really have any set expectations, except that it would be different from a lot of the other novels I tend to pick up. Etherington is a new author to me. She is a poet, short story writer and travel writer and all of these styles weave their ways into her novel.

The novel has a dream like quality it expertly feels child like, without ever becoming childish - in stead it offers observations that are more than adult in their detail, wisdom and thoughtfulness. Interspersed through the narrative are chapters/ short stories that stand alone based around the botany of Papua.

The story and stories are heartbreaking and real and yet uplifting - they honour the people of the region and reflect the difficulties too.

The novel moves slow and twisted, it's not about clean story lines and clever twists. It feels like a 'full length' short story - if that makes any sense. I think this novel would be soul food for anyone who's lived, as the author has, in unfamiliar places and with the dirt, customs, ways and languages of somewhere that is completely foreign.

It's thought provoking reading and beautifully crafted language.

I leave you with a couple of favourite quotes:
The women put their grief back in their bags that were so wide they could hold the whole world. They put their grief in their for bringing out during late nights or early morning loneliness, and started opening the cooking pits.

Sometimes all we can do is watch, have our own eyes on the earth even if we do not always know what we are seeing.

Details - PenguinRandomHouse, March 2017. RRP $38.00 ebook available
you can also read a beginning extract of the book in the same place

love you more than a book that makes you care without your consent xxx

Friday, March 10, 2017



I recently got an invite to a sewing retreat, one of the people going had had to drop out and they offered me the place. Whoop! A whole weekend of uninterrupted sewing, my own room and all food provided for a very reasonable cost? ... um yes!

As a sewing retreat virgin I had a fear that I wouldn't take enough and I'd run out of things to sew - enter the lists! I wrote lists of things to do, lists of what I needed to take with each project - thread, binding etc. Then I wrote a master list of what projects I had - which I happily ticked at the completion of each project over the weekend.

The worst bit about sewing for me is the prep so I also cut out, sewed darts and overlocked all the relevant pieces for 2 peg pinnys, a hoodie, a pair of pants, 2 dresses and 2 tops.

The retreat was at Living Springs - about a half hour drive away and it was stunningly beautiful. This is my sewing view. So good for the soul!

I'll blog about the projects separately but for your info.

Completed projects:

Friday night - 
2 dresses
1 top

Saturday - 
2 x peg pinnys (if you don't have one you should - they are a game changer)
hemmed a throw for our bed
1 top
1 pair of pants
machine sewed binding on the edge of a quilt

Sunday - 
removed the waistband from an op-shop skirt and bias bound the new waistline
hand stitched the binding onto the back of the quilt from the night before
did some Boro (visible mending) on a pair of jeans that I was given

I had 2 projects I had thrown in at the last minute to cut out if I had time and some other picture hand sewing to do if I had time. I didn't get to those but always best to be prepared! If I had sewed for longer on the Sunday I may well have got to them.

I started sewing at about 6pm on the Friday and finished sewing at about 12:30 on the Sunday.

And I met a whole group of incredibly talented, diverse and inspiring sewing women.

How about you - ever been on a creative retreat?

love you more than the sound of whirring sewing machines xxx