On Friends, UFOs and Getting Crafty

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The day our third and youngest was born,  we didn’t contact many people.  Facebook could wait.  But I did send a text to one old and dear friend to let her know the baby had arrived safely.

Lisa didn’t have my new cell number, but at our age, friends don’t have babies every week. I hadn’t bothered adding my name.  The answer returned swiftly: “Congratulations, but I don’t think we know each other.”  

Once she knew it was me, her next text read  “How did that happen?”. Whilst Lisa had a genteel upbringing, the question was not about how the baby came to be, but how it could be that a whole pregnancy had passed unnoticed.

Life slips easily into a series of days made up of nothing more than the struggle to get to work, do the chores, feed the children and get some sleep. Days become weeks then months where nothing remarkable happens, there are no specific memories to look back on.  It is not that these days are unhappy, but they leave me with the feeling that life is just sliding by. I’m not making the most of our precious time together: life is not being lived lavishly.

This is not to say life is quiet and restful. There are the times you look at your diary only to find that your next completely free weekend is in two months time. (In our case, usually indicative of the state of our daughters’ social lives rather than our own).  There is a world of difference between having lots of things to do and living a rich and full life.

This year I’m on the look out for more opportunities to spend time with the people that matter.

Against that backdrop, I must also explain that in some far corner of my brain apparently untouched by feminism or rational thought of any kind, I nurture a deeply held belief that my happiness is dependent on my house meeting Martha Stewartesque standards of organisation.  Those of you familar with the clutter affecting many rooms of said house will no doubt be surprised.  The truth is, I am a failed neat freak.

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Part of this clutter is directly attributable to numerous UFOs or unfinished objects: incomplete craft and sewing projects, half knitted sweaters, unfinished mending, baskets of leftover yarn and the like.  So when sister-in-law Kate and I talked about doing some more needlework classes, I had to admit that what I really needed was to get on top of work I already have on hand.

There’s not a lot you can’t teach yourself out of a good book.  Now with the internet, blog tutorials and youtube.com, it’s that much easier to do.  But I have fond memories of going to my great aunt’s weaving circle in Wadowice, or my aunty’s quilting group in Waipawa: women sitting around together working companionably on their respective projects, gentle chatter going back and forth, some laughs, the pleasure of company without any particular pressure to converse.  This is what I have looked for in needlework classes, but they have never really delivered.

So this year Kate and I decided to do something different and organised a monthly get together cum craft night.  We could meet in our own homes, but we have enjoyed the added benefit of holding the evening in the studio section of Made on Marion. Long time friend and proprietrix Maryanne Cathro is on hand with ready advice and every conceivable piece of thread, paint, glue or haberdashery one could need.

We gather on a Friday evening after work, everyone brings a bottle or something to nibble, we sit, catch up on each others lives, and work on our respective projects until we go home, tired but relaxed to our families and the weekend. For a couple of friends, this has been a chance to try something new in a safe environment, for others, a spur to pick up something already familiar, perhaps reinvigorated by new ideas from others or the shelves of Maryanne and David’s store.

What with being unable to type and wield a hook or needle at the same time, my own progress has slowed since I started this blog.  I had imagined being a few projects up by now.  But the afghan throw I started earlier in the year is still going.  I’m hoping to finish my squares over the next month. It ought to be done and adorning the back of my sofa before the winter is out.

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It really was a dark and stormy night.

It’s a long time since I was last ejected from a bar.

On reflection, I can’t recall it happening before, but surely I misspent sufficient youth that it must have happened, at least once.

Thursday evening, I definitely got turfed out of Havana Bar. I’d like to be able to tell you it was because my friend, Thor, picked a fight with the barman.  But in reality I was out with Thor’s mum and mums of other children in my daughter’s class. And the cause of our expulsion was that the roof had blown off Havana’s dining room, the restaurant guests were being reseated in the bar and we were out of luck.

hereisthesun-copy (2)           Havana Dining room

Left: Havana in better weather; Right: in the dining room with the offending section of roof (see skylight)

We understood, sympathised even, and, after sitting against the wall of the former worker’s cottage and feeling the force of each gust lift the whole structure up a couple of inches, or so it felt, were perhaps even relieved.

The weather hadn’t seemed that bad when we left home.  Dark?  Yes, Friday was the winter solstice in these parts.  Windy?  Yes, but it’s Wellington.  There’s a reason we have so many wind sculptures. Wet?  Also true, but none of us is made of sugar, and besides, it had taken a good number of emails to get this evening off the ground. We weren’t about to give up because of a bit of damp.  

I had not factored in how sheltered our house is.

We drove into the city around the bays. The rain, like the Zephyrometer, was horizontal,  one of my companions gaily explained how her husband had to stop and move a trampoline off the road to get home.  At traffic lights, the wind played with the car, like a kid blowing at a dead moth on a windowsill.

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The Zephryometer: a bright orange wind vane.

Back out on the street, the wind was doing that thing where it kind of sucks the air right out of your mouth.  Fresh refuge was a mercifully short walk away. The Southern Cross looked warm and inviting. And it was.

Older Wellingtonians will recall the days when the Cross was a booze barn par excellence.  It was popular with students for the reasons that it was cheap and “relaxed” about age restrictions.  It was the kind of bar where the carpet was squishy and you kept a close eye on the barman to make sure he didn’t short serve your drink. It’s seen some variations since then, none terribly prepossessing.

Never my favourite spot, I haven’t been in there in over 10 years, so the place that greeted me on Thursday came as nothing but a pleasant surprise.  It was clean, warm, spacious yet still cosy.  The fire was going, and in the lounge area guests curled up with mulled wine and hot water bottles. Despite the weather and the size of the bar, it was quite full. The staff immediately found our group a corner in the dining area where we could all sit together.

An inveterate grazer, I was glad to see a range of small plates on the menu. But after last week’s steak debacle, I still had a craving to fill.

The small plates delivered to our table were attractively presented.  The larger meals were nothing fancy to look at. But my steak was indeed rare (they asked twice to check) and the cafe de Paris butter well flavoured and obliged by melting steadily over the course of the meal. No lump of meat sitting in a pool of melted butter as is sadly sometimes served. The salad was generous, fresh and, in blinding contrast to last week’s vinegar bathed travesty, subtly dressed.

The service was relaxed, friendly yet very attentive all without being overbearing, or overfamiliar.

If the place came as a surprise, there was more to come when I checked out the website later on. For me, this is a new high in family friendly.  On weekends between 10am and 2pm you can go for brunch and have your kids entertained by craft tables, toys and face painting.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays they set aside a space for parents and children to relax in the morning, with someone to keep an eye on the kids, and, if you’re still there later in the day, you can even score a free chair massage. For crafty types there’s a knitting circle on Monday nights.  

Why didn’t someone tell me about this earlier?  How could I not have known?

By the time we finished our meals and talked some more, the airport was closed, ferry sailings cancelled, trees were blowing over and we heard that 25,000 homes were without power.   Seemed like time to go home.

It was the worst storm my city has seen in my lifetime.  Roads along Wellington’s southern coast were damaged by 15 meter swells.  200kmh winds were recorded on Mount Kaukau.  The Kaitaki, a 1600 passenger ferry, broke its moorings with 50 staff on board and was eventually brought to anchor in the harbour.

Road Damage

Damage to Coastal Road

But you can’t keep a good thing down. By the next day the folks at Havana, like the rest of the city, were unphased, up and running again.   It would be a shame for something as trivial as a roof to get in the way of such a good place to while away an evening.   I’m just going to have to find another reason to get there soon.

Flowers in the Snow

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Flowers in the Snow

Got a wool stash that’s taking up space? A guilty conscience about all those half finished projects cluttering up what would be a sewing room/office if only, but only, you could reach the table?

A quick look through Pinterest and Ravelry soon had me thinking about afghan throws in a new way. Our sitting room is decorated in neutral tones with chocolate brown leather furniture. A cascade of colour should help to lift the whole thing.

As it turns out, my stash was under attack by moths, so the project comes just in time (and is an excellent way of using up those shorter lengths of yarn, curse the little beasties).

The picture shows the beginnings of my project. It’s pretty quick. I’m working in DK/8ply and can manage 6 circles in an evening. I’m up to about 170 circles by now.

I’ve decided to wait until they are all done before I join them. I want to employ quilting principles in the lay out to get a good flow of colour and play of light and dark. To help, I’m going to take them along to my monthly craft night at Made on Marion where my long time friend, proprietor and quilter, Maryanne Cathro and other fellow crafters can play with the layout on one of the large tables in the store’s studio space. Once it’s laid out, I can take a picture to fix the arrangement and then start crocheting them together.

Here’s the link to Solveig Grimstad’s easy to follow pattern Flower in the Snow.

Non-American’s should be a little careful with the terminology. It’s all in chains and trebles.