Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Stitching Kowhai Leaves and Road Trip Tales

I’ve been stitching away on the third of my New Zealand botanical bocks.  This one is called “Kowhai Circlet” with a whole lot of small kowhai leaves to be stitched.  So far  I’ve done half of them, together with the circlet, and the various stems.  Once all the leaves have been completed, I can start on the pretty bright yellow kowhai flowers.   But as I’ve said before, every little bit helps.

Weeks into our road trip, I’ve come to the conclusion that I get more stitching done if I leave my stitching bag out on the sofa, instead of putting it away in the cupboard each night.  Out of sight means out of mind, as it’s turned out.  Having my bag to hand, it is just so easy to pick it up on a sunny afternoon and start stitching, rather than to go looking for the bag when it has been put away.  Does that make sense to you?

As for holiday news – we are continuing to slowly move northwards.  The climb towing the van up the steep Takaka Hill (800m high) was slow and a little nerve-wracking, when we met a large truck coming around a tight corner straight towards us.  Some of those corners were real hair pins but the driver (if not the navigator) kept his cool, and kept on keeping on.  The views, as to be expected, were magnificent.  Mountain after mountain, one behind the other, as far as the eye could see.

Trip over the Takaka Hill

We went to visit a very special place, the Pupu Springs.  Te Waikoropupū Springs (their full name) are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere and contain some of the clearest water ever measured.  The entrance way has carved posts, and information panels telling of the springs and their special meaning to the Maori people.  We walked along a track through native forest, along an easy path and boardwalk.  The bush ringed pool is absolutely beautiful, full of the clearest of water bubbling up to the surface.  A little further around the boardwalk was the Dancing Sands Spring, where the bubbling water moves the white sandy bottom of the pool around, making the sand really look like it is dancing.


Pupu Springs

There was a lot to explore in this area, places we hadn’t been before.  One day we decided to visit Totaranui, to see what was there.  Our trip started with driving through a hole hacked out of the rock,  and then we were on our way.  We reached the end of the sealed road and turned onto a 10km wiggly unsealed road to take us down to Totaranui on the coast.

On the way to Totaranui

There is a huge DOC campground at Totaranui, which is on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park.   The place was teeming with walkers, all keen to walk the tracks throughout the park.   We watched as crowds of campers milled about down on the beach, getting off and on the water taxis, as they lugged heavy back packs.  We were surprised at just how many keen young people there were ready to tackle these tracks over the mountains.

Water taxis at Totaranui

The Abel Tasman National Park was named to honour Abel Tasman who visited New Zealand way back in 1642 but did not actually land here.  We stopped to view the imposing Abel Tasman Monument on the hillside, and were entertained by the antics of a cheeky weka, another flightless New Zealand native bird,  as we walked up the path.


Cheeky weka and the Abel Tasman Monument

Another interesting visit was to  Labyrinth Rocks.   The Labyrinth is a world class example of karst limestone topography, we read.  We walked along narrow passages, ducking under trees, with towering rocks all around us.  About 25 million years ago the land was lifted out of the sea, and the tremendous forces taking place caused a series of cracks through the rocks, allowing rainwater to enter.  After millions of years the small cracks have widened to become the canyons in the labyrinth.



Labyrinth Rocks

I’ll leave you with pictures of a memorial mosaic bench on the beach we found at a beach.  It seems to be made in the memory of a young woman who had passed away, by four friends.  It really was a work of art and incorporated commercial tiles, together with mosaics made from pottery, glass and beads.  You can imagine the time, effort, creative endeavor and love  these girls put in to making such a wonderful memory of their friend.

In memory of Kelly

The scenery is wonderful in this part of the country – we  are currently exploring the northern tip of the South Island, known as the Golden Bay area.  Have been here briefly some years ago, so it is great, this time, to take longer and have such a good look around.

Monday, February 12, 2018

More Holiday News

It’s hard to believe we have been traveling around the South Island for 2 months, with only a couple more weeks to go.  And so far we have towed our caravan close to 3000km.  So where have we been to lately?  We were interested to see how the town of Kaikoura was getting on.  Last year Kaikoura suffered a huge earthquake which did immense damage to the road and rail link, leaving this town cut off from some time.  The coastline was raised dramatically, and our stay here gave us the chance to see some of the changes.  South Bay now has a raised coastline, with rocks now lifted up, which were previously covered by sea water.

Kaikoura coastline

While at Kaikoura we called in to visit Fyffe House, an historic property administered by Heritage New Zealand.  This historic house is built on the “bones of whales” and is all that remains of Waiopuka Whaling Station.  It really is built on top of whale bones, and we were shown where vertebrae bones were laid as a foundation to support the house.  There were tiny bedrooms on the top floor and I rather hoped that I would find an old quilt or two gracing the beds.  But no, in the later years the house was owned by a crusty old bachelor, whose housekeeping  habits were rather questionable, we were told.  But he did donate the historic old house to Heritage New Zealand, so the history can be kept alive for all to enjoy.

Fyffe House

Then we moved on to ticked another item ticked off the Bucket List – the Pelorus Mail Boat Cruise.  And what a day we had. The Marlborough Sounds is a system of drowned river valleys, which were formed after the last ice age around 10,000 years ago.   Our trip took us in and out of these tranquil waterways, surrounded by endless tree covered hills, with the boat dropping off mail along the way.  Delivering the mail meant chugging slowly into the bays, nudging up to the jetty, leaning precariously out, and swapping mail bags with the customer.


Sometimes the customers brought their pets along to meet the mail boat, so we got to meet them too.  This is Paul the pig, who was practically climbing into the skipper’s window, drooling and grunting,  while he was fed biscuits.   Then at another stop, we admired two rather cute Kune Kune pigs who came to meet everyone on the boat.

The scenery was gorgeous, there are no roads so it is boat access only.


We cruised past a tiny island, home of the King Shags with their pink feet, and these birds are only found in the Marlborough Sounds.  King shags are deep divers, feeding on bottom-dwelling fish species, and have been recorded foraging in water depths down to 50 m.

King shags on their tiny island home

We had a great day out cruising

Moving on to Nelson, and after a warm and cloudy day, the weather has changed dramatically.  But we mustn't grumble – as everyone says,  the farmers need the rain after all those weeks of over the top temperatures.  Robin’s sister Kaye and her hubby Jan live close to where we were camping, and invited us around for a Sunday roast dinner.  It was great to catch up with them, and in my book, nothing beats a leg of roast lamb, although roast pork would be a close second.  It was a wonderful meal, and we appreciated their kindness.

Jan and Kaye

Currently we are staying at Nelson, and today took a trip out to Mapua Wharf.  Once a busy coastal freight wharf during the orchard heyday, Mapua Wharf is now a trendy restaurant, bar, café and arts and crafts precinct.   But the remnants of it’s early history still remain in the buildings. The apples may be long gone, but the old buildings remain, chock full of trendy stores.


We had the very best lunch available at Mapua Wharf (in our view) and ordered fish and chips from The Smokehouse, seated outside in the sunshine – a “must do” Mapua experience.  This was followed by an ice-cream for him and a coffee for her.

Lunching at Mapua Wharf

And what’s this I found?  Another quilt shop – that wasn’t there on our previous visit six years ago.  Cushla’s Village Fabrics is well known in Auckland, and I didn’t know that they now have a shop on Mapua, Nelson.  They have been here about four years, I was told.


Robin waited patiently outside while I had a look around.  Inside was lovely, full of colour, fabrics, quilts, I could have spent ages there, just pottering about.  It made me realise that I’m getting withdrawal symptoms from my sewing machine! 

Inside Cushla’s Patchwork and Quilting

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Visit to The Quilters Barn, Blenheim

There we were, driving happily along, checking out Blenheim, when we came across a shopping complex known as The Vines Village.  So named, no doubt, because it was surrounded by grape vines, as far as the eye could see.  There are more vineyards around here than you could shake a stick at.   This  is New Zealand’s largest winemaking region with around 65 wineries and 290 grape growers and over 4000 hectares planted in grapes, mainly Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.  Enough to keep any wine drinker happy.


Tucked inside the Vines Village was The Quilters Barn, a shop I had visited before on our previous South Island trip, but well worth another visit.  I had to smile at the message on the black board – my sewing room is never as tidy as I would like, either!


The friendly owner gave me permission to take some photos of her lovely shop.  There were all sorts of wonderful things, shelves full of fabrics, knitting wool, haberdashery, patterns, and a great assortment of beautiful quilts lining the walls.  In the classroom I could hear a group of ladies talking about the charity quilts they were stitching, for good causes.  It seemed a very happy place indeed.


Inside The Quilters Barn

I was after a skein of Perle No5 in dark purple for one of my stitchery blocks, and found a rather nice variegated one.  And when I spotted two more skeins of the dark green I’m using in all the blocks, I happily gathered them up too. 

My purchases for the day

While I was happily pottering around the shop, looking at this and that, admiring the batiks, and checking out the various patterns, Robin was outside devouring an ice-cream before it melted in the hot sun.  So we were both having a great time at the Vines Village!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Silk Post Cards and Hussifs

Beautiful silk postcards were produced during WW1 for soldiers fighting overseas to send home to their wives, sweethearts, and mothers.  There is a beautiful collection of these small works of art displayed at the Omaka Aviation Centre, in Blenheim.  Produced in France and Belgium, these were particularly popular with British and Allied servicemen during the Great War, who brought them to send back home to their families.

Silk postcards on display

Also on display were two Hussifs created by Frances Rookes for an exhibition to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Cassino.  Frances created replicas of the self care kits which many soldiers took with them to war.  These were equipped with the necessary items  for a soldier to repair his uniform, along with other assorted bits and pieces deemed necessary to the soldiers.

Two Hussifs, made by Frances Rookes

I was also intrigued by this poster, urging people at home to “Knit for the RAF” – patterns supplied by the Comforts Committee.

Knitting for the RAF

Then into the exhibition about WW11, Dangerous Skies.  With dim lighting and the sounds of planes flying overhead, it  was a great atmosphere.  The aircraft on display were full sized, all in working order, we were told. The exhibition told the tales of real fighting men, such as James Hayter from Timaru, known to his friends as Spud.  He escaped his burning Hurricane above Kent during the Battle of Britain, landing on the grounds of Great Swifts Estate.  On convincing the grounds man who challenged him with a hay fork that he was with the RAF and not one of the enemy, James was welcomed to the cocktail party taking place at the manor.   You can imagine what a stir the arrival of a brave pilot would have caused, and a Kiwi to boot!  His minor head wound was dressed by a lady doctor, one of the guests, but surprisingly she later sent him an account for her service.  Why, we can only imagine!  You would think she would have treated him free as her contribution to the war effort.

Gate crashing the cocktail party

You can read more about our visit to the “Dangerous Skies WW11 Exhibition at https://romanyrambler.blogspot.co.nz/2018/02/blenheim-and-omaka.html

Monday, February 5, 2018

Karaka Wreath

With some diligent holiday stitching, I’m pleased to say I have finished my Karaka Wreath block.  This is the second of nine I have stitched, using New Zealand native tree blocks designed by Jenny Hunter.

Karaka Wreath block
The Karaka is a leafy canopy tree, and grows to heights up to 15 m, with thick,glossy, dark green leaves.  The yellow-orange fruit ripens in summer and autumn, and are eaten by native birds, such as kereru and tui.

We are still on our long road trip, and are currently staying at Kaikoura, camping just across the road from the beach.  As we went for a casual  beach stroll last night, we enjoyed the lovely colours in the night sky.

Kaikoura Beach

Friday, February 2, 2018

Laundry never stops

On holiday or not – the laundry never stops.  I took a load along to a launderette in Christchurch, and guess who I bumped into.  This wasn’t just any old laundromat but a very busy coffee bar, and coffee roasting business as well.  And who should I meet up while I lugged my big laundry bag through the door but number one son Michael, who was meeting a friend for coffee.  Once I had the washing machine going I went and ordered a coffee for myself and crashed his coffee date.  Not too sure how he felt about that, but Mum’s don’t mind embarrassing their children, even when they are grown up, do they?  And it was better sitting by myself in the laundry area waiting for the machine to complete it’s cycle.

Michael and his Mum

Robin and I had a “proper” visit with Michael at his home the following day – no cramping his style this time.  But I did ask if I could use his washing machine at home – the caravan sheets and towels needed changing.  It was a funny old day weather-wise – showers and very strong winds.  So on the way back to our van we decided it would be easier to put the clean, wet washing through a spin drier at a launderette and not have to worry about it blowing off the line in the paddock where we were camping.

Round and round it goes.

We have just had several days at Akaroa, on Banks Peninsular, named after Joseph Banks who was sailing with Captain Cook on the Endeavour in 1770.  It’s history goes back to the dawn of time and it was formed following violent eruptions of two volcanoes.  These formed the twin craters of the Akaroa and Lyttleton harbours, which have many smaller bays indenting the coastline.


And believe it or not, Akaroa was very nearly claimed by the French.  There were street signs proclaiming Rue this and Rue that, an acknowledgment of the French immigrants who arrived, only to find that the English had already claimed sovereignty.  The French were allowed to stay, and Akaroa embraces the French influence.

Driving down the hill into Akaroa

A morning on a harbour cruise to check out the wildlife sounded like fun.  The morning started with the usual safety briefing drill, no running, no smoking, keep children under control, and whereabouts of life jackets.  All quite necessary, and the the skipper took us around the harbour, checking for wildlife to show us.


We saw dolphins, penguins, seals and sea birds, not always easy to photograph, together with amazing rock formations.

Giant Petrel and baby fur seals

We took a photo of this poster on board the boat of a Hector’s dolphin, so much clearer than trying to snap them in the water as they swam alongside the boat.   Hector’s dolphins are among the world’s smallest marine dolphins, found only in the inshore waters of New Zealand.  They are the only dolphins in New Zealand with a rounded black dorsal fin. Their bodies are a distinctive grey, with white and black markings and a short snout.

Poster of a Hector’s dolphin

It was a great morning out, and most enjoyable.  The Captain gave us a great running commentary, pointing of places of interest, and stopping the boat when wildlife was beside us in the harbour.

On board the Black Cat