Thursday, March 28, 2013

colour me autumn

Autumn's welcome chill is seeping into the nights here. I love this time of year. Digging out flannel pyjama;s (why, yes, they ARE made from upcycled vintage sheets!), but still being able to sneak down for a swim in the afternoons.
As the colours fade in the natural world, I always find myself drawn to bright colours, to wear, to create with and to give. I have been on the lookout for egg cups for awhile and was thrilled to find this set at the thrift shop.
They sit on my kitchen windowsill and the light coming through them in the afternoons makes my heart sing.
My very own rainbows.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wikitoria and Te Kepa

                                           Wikitoria Taitoko Kemp 1910
I have been totally caught up and swept away by researching my son Jed's whakapapa (genealogy) this weekend. I mean, wake up in the middle of the night swept away by it.
You see, a few years ago a very very old marriage certificate emerged, with Te Rangihiwinui TaitokoTe Kepa's name on it. And rangatira in brackets. (Rangatira means hereditary leaders of hapu or iwi. Europeans 
translated it as chief). He lived from 1823-1898 in the Wanganui area. This man was an incredible and visionary leader of his people and he also fought on the side of the crown and won the respect of the Europeans. His european name was Major Kemp. His portrait is the first thing I saw when I walked into the Wanganui museum. While there is a bit written about him, I find myself fascinated by the powerful women in his life. His mother, Rere-o-Maki, who was of noble birth from the Horowhenua, was one of five women (out of the hundreds of men) that signed the treaty of Waitangi in 1840. I have often wondered about her. And she is my son's ancestor. Well, apparently, there are a few holes to fill and a few kuia to talk to before I would say for sure.
And, this strong woman up top there? Wikitoria Taitoko Kepa, his only child, and the receivor of his leadership role. It seems they were very close. She was a powerful person politically and socially herself. 
I have been poring over countless copies of old newspapers from the early 1900's online mentioning her. 

This is Te Rangihiwiniui Te Kepa
And, him in his later years, with all his military decorations.
After all his work to win peace in the area, it seems he died disillusioned with the European settlers government and did much to try and stop the selling of more Maori land. He set up the first ever Maori Land trust.
His last words were, ' Sell no more land, keep the remainder you have as sustenance for the Maori people'.
This is a picture of some unknown children at Putiki Pa (where Te Kepa died in 1898) in Whanganui. 1900

Looking back through old family photographs it seems strange that this heritage didn't come out sooner...there's clearly some brown skin and handsome Maori features happening through the years there. Anyway, I have come as far as I can online. Next up: talk to someone at Wanganui Museum and try and locate a kuia descendant of theirs who is willing to talk whakapapa with me. Such a journey.

Friday, March 22, 2013


We found tracks. Imaginations were running riot as we followed them along the sand alongside the stream and into the water, then back. This is one of our favourite spots - sheltered from the wind, fresh water, deep enough to snorkel or play on soft surf boards and the occasional eel to keep it real. The waves are not far, for those wanting wild surf action. Our beach is famous for it's rescues. It can be pretty perilous, swimming between those surf lifesaver flags is definitely a good idea. Plus, the kids have been a little squeamish about swimming in the sea since someone got attacked by a shark not far from here. (Poor guy. And his family, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.) 
So, these tracks. Small mammal like tracks but then is that line a tail dragging? We have been through books and trawled through the internet but haven't identified them yet. Our imaginations are bound to be better than knowing what the real animal is, but we want to know! Do you have a clue? All suggestions gratefully received!
We set up camp for the afternoon. We picnicked, played, tracked the wild snozwanger, Mama put in some work time (not a bad office hey?!) and Jed got some good time on the board and snorkeling. I love the chats we have just hanging out. The pace of life has picked up some lately and it's especially important to me to grab these moments and ride 'em. 
I am making the most of the warmer weather...autumn is settling in. I love autumn. Soup and handmade bread time!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

GrowMama unplugged

Here we are. Grateful the rains have come. As beautifully busy as ever. Making the most of summer's harvest bounty (Oh, blueberries and sweetcorn i will miss you so!) and pouncing on quiet moments whenever we come up on an unsuspecting one. 
Here we are unplugged and unedited. I realised recently that things had been looking a little too polished over here in Growmama blogworld, i want this space to inspire, but also to be real. We are. Oh yes...and today was real folks. Grumpiness struck and we had to take to the hills on our bikes to leave it behind. We got away. Phew. 
No matter how busy things get i try and keep our food whole and vibrant. This mess of a salad has to be fastest meal ever assembled and wins the the ugliest salad prize. And, quite possibly the most delicious. Could be that it was the romance of eating it in a homemade hut in a garden summer downpour. You be the judge. Baby spinach, blue cheese, freshly grated beetroot, sweetcorn, tamari roasted sunflower seeds, (you could omit the random leftover carrot sticks!) and french dressing. Wow. So good.
                               Chester's salad impersonation
In those hijacked quiet moments there has been alot of hut building lately. Alot of reading books in huts. Some unplugging of media and phones and some 'just being'. 
It's so good to just and be.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

natural pest control

We have had the pleasure of watering a neighbour's garden while they were away.
They are truly great folks and their garden and land reflects that. It's been a delight to look after it for them. 
Jed has been clearing their tomato plants of caterpillars and feeding them to the chickens with a sort of grisly delight. I am not sure how i feel about that, so i leave him to it and stick to the watering. The chickens are happy with this method of natural pest control. Ek!
 They are masters of camouflage these guys.
 Can you spot them?!
 Even the tiny ones got the chicken treatment.
As well as the chickens and bees, the trees there are just humming with native bird life. You have probably gathered from previous posts that we're deep in a drought here in the North Island of New Zealand. It is a testament to natural gardening that this garden we were looking after showed very little signs of drought damage. There were no cracks in the ground or wilted plants. A very stark contrast to the open lawn of our place, where there are great fissures running through the land and it is crisped where the sewage water run-off doesn't reach. 
Organic forest-like gardening 1, organic garden bordering open lawn 0! 

PS - These folks are legends in their own time in my eyes...they were involved in the free state of Frestonia back in the 70's, wow, what a time that must've been. In all the social justice work i was involved in, the folks of Frestonia were referred to in hushed and awed tones of voice. Now i get to hear the tales over cups of tea...don't you love it how life unfurls in the most unsuspected of ways sometimes?!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

an outfit post - the comfort clothes

My take on outfit posts usually involves secondhand or handmade clothes. Upcycled or recycled. Found or made. I figure there is enough stuff in the world already and plus, I get bored looking on racks where it's all laid out and colour coded...MUCH more fun to rummage and make it up!
I like I can wear what I want on a limited financial outlook. I like the phrase, 'Anything is possible'. Like when I found these brand new sandals from a Melbourne boutique on for $7. Yeah!
Here's a peek into the daily life of go-to shirt and jeans feel-good favourite's.
I love the print on this shirt. I have never seen anything like it. It gets comments all the time. Even now, years of wear later and sporting several holes. It'll be a sad day when that one gets relegated to the rag bag!
And yes, that is a vintage handkerchief in that top picture. I pretty much always have one in my pocket. Handkerchiefs are a vital piece of this mama's outfit, even lurking in a pocket. I'm kinda old-fashioned like that. They are so useful. I am an unashamed fan of the handkerchief, just like my nana. (Don't get me started about aprons!)
 Did you know I have a thing about cardigans? Mine are mostly vintage and they get worn ALOT.  
The trusty favourite jeans and belt. A recent find is that Top Shop's moto brand of jean fits short-waisted curvy short women like me super well. It is a simple joy to finally find a jean that fits so well after years of safety pins, tucks and velcro. I trawled trademe until i had a pair in blue, grey and deep red. Love. 
And you'll notice my concession to this stinking hot summer...the jeans are rolled up. Shorts don't feature in my wardrobe too much. Skirts, yes...shorts...mmmm, not so much.

Grey jeans - Top Shop moto baxter jeans - $20 from
Blue vintage wool cardigan with pockets and cool buttons - $8 from Merlin's 
Chainmail and leather belt - Miss Sixty from trademe (was one of three belts for $16 i think)
Black leather sandals - $7 new off
Vintage polka dot handkerchief - 50 cents from the op shop (thrift store)
Shirt with vintage scene print - so long ago it's source is lost in was definitely secondhand

What's your comfy favourite outfit at the moment? 

Monday, March 11, 2013

fabric geekery

My interest in fabric is such that a friend and i woke at 5.30 to get ourselves and all our fabric into Fabric-a-brac. Are we fabric geeks? Was this our idea of fun? Yes and YES! Unashamedly yes on all counts! 
Even the hour was a novelty, because i tend to the night owl end of the spectrum. It was the only time i have ever been awake before my son, and the look on his face when he saw me up and dressed was hilariously priceless.
Fabric-a-brac was beautifully organised by the lovely Vanessa and co, on behalf of Hospice. The array of fabrics, patterns and sewing accoutrement was truly impressive. The teas on vintage china with cakes was exquisite. And i got to meet the lovely Louana from the NZGreenButtons blog, that was super cool. I have met such great women through blogland, it's budding into a beautiful and supportive community. So nice to meet one of the lovelies actually face to face. Very oldfashioned of me i know!
It was a feast for the eyes. I de-stashed wildly, selling over half of what i had brought and er, bought patterns and lengths of merino fabric for the annual making of hoodies and merino gear for the autumn and winter to come. Practical buying though, needed, really!
This is a terrible photo of a beautiful piece of fabric i have had for years. It's hand embroidered garden motifs onto dark green velvet in several plys of thread. The whole piece is a huge frame, all in pristine condition. I get it out every now and then to admire and fondle. It is too beautiful to cut into, i wondered about letting it go to someone who would restore it and display it. My friend Claire encouraged me to show it to two super knowledgeable woman vintage fabric collectors about what price to put on it (i wasn't convinced i could actually let it go)...and it turns out it's worth oh, something over $400. Sheesh. Happy! Now, whether i can actually ever sell it will be another story. Knowing me i will give it away on a happy rush one day. 
 I brought home metres of this beautiful vintage blue floral...

...and a vintage tunic dress made from this delicious barkcloth. Both gifts from Claire. Both made my heart sing. Definitely recommend a visit to Fabric-a-brac next time it rolls around...i was home in time for a late lunch and a well deserved snooze.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

tomato relish and east west organics

This summer has been a stonker. So little rain, the grass is brown and the birds are lining up for a splash in the water we put out for them. We made the hard decision to stop watering the garden when we were trying to make the water in our tank last. Cracks opened up in the vegetable garden by the second day. There has been rain the last few days but I swear it sizzles and evaporates on arrival. Somehow, miraculously, some plants have managed to keep on keeping on. Celeriac and tomatoes I am looking at you!
I am happy to say that the annual tomato relish making tradition lives on. I always look forward to cracking a jar of that taste of summer, when it is all wintry and misty outside.
And in the meantime, because we couldn't bear to be without fresh parsley and salads, a mini garden has been built closer to the house and not in full sun. We can water with grey water from the house easily and still   eat that good green tastiness within minutes of picking. 

And for those wondering what I am up to, with a few yawning silences between my replies to emails and blog posts?! As well as fulfilling a writing contract, I have starting working for East West Organics here in West Auckland. They are super good people, I am a long standing customer of their existing store and they're branching out...opening an organics superstore, natural health clinic, cafe, bakery, arts and crafts gallery and organic garden centre in Auckland's New Lynn. All very community minded and with a heart I like to call it. It fits my right livelihood ethics perfectly.

And where do I come in? I am managing their Social Media presence and the 'voice of East West Organics', some consulting, content writing, helping develop their new (yet to be launched) website. I work part-time, remotely -based from home, though i hot-desk occasionally to keep in touch with whats happening onsite.  Exciting times! Pop along over to the East West Organics Facebook page and have a peek, click 'like' to help us along and feel free to share any posts to get the word out. I will have a whole East West Organics lifestyle blog to play with in a few weeks, can't wait!

And, may I just say...I am in total awe of all you mama's out there who juggle work, kidlet's and all the other pieces that make up our beautiful lives. Wow. It is an intricate, ever shifting balancing act. Hats off to all mama's, whether in paid work or not. Life is beautifully crowded sometimes, and, well, mama's just rock.