Friday, December 25, 2009

Prayer for the lady reading this...

Dear LORD God,
The lady reading this is beautiful, classy, and strong,
and I know you love her.
Help her live her life to the fullest.
Please promote her and cause her to excel above her expectations.
Help her shine in the darkest places where it seems impossible to love.
Protect her at all times, lift her up when she needs you the most,
and let her know what when she walks with You she will always be safe.


Tender heart, your sorrows are not forgotten.
They are noticed by the one Who made you and Who holds you even now.
When you feel fragmented by loss, frustration, despair,
God gathers each piece that you give to Him
And gently, masterfully creates a new life --
A life that reflects His warm love
And His promises for you.

Here's to all those who have had tearstained pillows, sighed wordless prayers, dried the tears of others while fighting their own, fought their way back from the pit of despair, and to those still wandering through the valley...

Keep the faith...God is there even when your tears blur your view.

From "Wounded Hearts - Renewed Hope"
by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Zipper Tip 2

You can buy fabric and patterns at discount prices, but rarely does one find zippers on sale, and invisible zips at full price can seem prohibitive. For this reason, I was delighted to find the local haberdashery store selling a brand at a third of the regular brand price.

Only one colour was available, but I figured no-one else would see that the navy zipper didn't match my white flannelette chemise. I sewed the garment and wore it regularly for 2 months. Suddenly I had a resistent zip pull. Couldn't do it all the way up. Fortunately the zip was set in the side of the garment, so I wouldn't fall out of it if the zip wasn't done all the way up. Life carried on with the zip pull an inch below the summit.

It wasn't long before I realized it wasn't cold weather or zipper rheumatism that was making it unable to complete the climb. Close inspection showed that the zipper tape was disintegrating. My NZ$2 bargain was no bargain after all. Merely cheap.

Left side of zipper

Right side of zipper

I bought a second zip at the same time, but I'm reluctant to test whether it will stand up to the rigours of normal garment life. It will be a fiddly and time-consuming job to replace the chemise zip, and I'm not willing to risk that happening on another garment.

So here's my Zipper Tip #2:
If you want the security of a healthy, reliable zip, get used to paying for the best.

I mentioned the situation to the owner of the store. She was grateful I did so and said she wouldn't be stocking that brand again. According to the label, it sells in New Zealand, Australia, and the USA. The label also guarantees replacement for faulty zips, but that's not going to get my chemise fixed.

Coming soon... Zipper Tip 3 -- Why bother with an invisible zip?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Scarf Storage

Where do off-duty scarves hang out?
Hopefully, in your closet.

Once you start regularly using scarfs as accessories, you realize they don't store quite as conveniently as other things that hang around your neck. But hang loose. Hopefully today's post will provide some solutions for you.

Furnishing and renovating stores sometimes stock 'scarf hangers'. I saw one once in an Avon makeup catalogue. A scarf hanger can be hung among your clothes in the closet or from a hook behind a door. A quick tap on Google located a pile of options here:,

and these...

a coathanger re-shaped by a creative do-it-yourselfer,and a design available from Ikea.

A simpler version is a not-quite-complete circle of smooth No.8 wire with a hook at the top. You could make one of these yourself, perhaps unbending a coathanger and reshaping it. Make sure that the finished item doesn't have any sharp ends or edges that could snag the scarves. Try haberdashery and craft stores for plastic tubing with which you can cover the wire to prevent this.

Another solution is to make use of the inside surface of your closet door. Is your closet door as productive as it should be?

My closet has two hinged doors made of flimsy veneer. Any attachments to the door must be made at the edges where the door frame supports their weight. Here's what my Dad and I have created on one of those doors to stow my scarves where they'll be easy to access and won't get crushed by other garments.

To create three rows of wire, you'll need 3 lengths of plastic-coated sprung wire (the type used to hang net curtains), 6 cup hooks or eyes, and 6 corresponding hooks for the door.

Tools needed: tape measure, awl, pliers.

Cut the sprung wire to a width just short of the width of the door. Using the pliers to get a firm grip, screw a hook or eye into each end of the spring.

Measure and mark where you want your wires to sit on the door.

Using the awl, pierce a hole in the door frame, and with pliers screw the hook firmly into place. Repeat on the other side of the door.

Attach the wire to the hook on one side of the door and stretch it to hook on the other side. it should look like this ---
Voila! Oodles of storage space. My chunky winter scarves get hung over large hooks at the top of the door, but this arrangement would also work for them.

Delicate scarves that I don't wear very often are folded and placed in clear plastic bags. The top of the bag is folded over the wire and fastened with a peg. I can still see them, but they're dust-free and snag-free.

I also use these 'shelves' for gloves and other small items that can be folded or hooked over the wire.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Shopping with Mum

Our Adventure in Norsewood

I love going on outings with my Mum. It doesn't happen often, even though we live in the same house, which serves to make me more gleeful in the event.

Are you familiair with that delicious feeling...being together with no distractions from people, work, cellphones or computers, time to indulge in meandering exploration and grown-up giggles, chatting about anything and everything, observing the world from the grandstand of our relaxation. Even the weather can't interfere with these occasions, and such was the case when we set off to see what we could see one day late in September.

The grey, storm-wasted countryside sprouted new spring growth, plump lambs, and mounds of frozen snow left over from an unseasonal snow fall the day before.

Mum and I were driving up to the village of Norsewood, 380m (1500ft) above sea level, and 15 minutes north of my hometown on Highway 2. We'd heard about a ladies clothing shop lodged in this out of the way spot, albeit easy to access, and we were on an expedition to chart its shores.

We landed in a season of bounty, and an hour later set sail with an unexpected harvest. In fact, we felt like we'd bought out the shop (we hadn't). We acquired 7 skirts, a pair of jeans,and a zipped polo shirt, and spent a mere $221.

You're wondering what we would want with so many skirts? Mum was replacing her 15 year old wardrobe, and I was targeting clothing that would fit my sister after the birth of her third baby.

The discount racks were displayed outside the shop, and I spent most of my time dancing between the racks and the open street trying to find cellular reception for the photos and text messages I was sending Katrina who was at home with her babies, 5 hours' drive away.

She didn't go for my first choice, a charming denim skirt topped with white crochet lace -- I forgot that diagonal lines are not her thing. We eventually settled on 3 black skirts and a pair of jeans. At NZ$19 each, who cares if they're all the same colour.

The skirts were in fact all completely different, both in style and shade of black. They included a drapey panelled polyester (Mum chose a silver grey one), a pinstripe wool mix (so comfortable it's become Mum's favourite), and a luscious velvet-look cotton spandex (Katrina's favourite). They're all lined. At one fifth of the original retail price, these skirts are super bargains.

Cellphone photo showing different shades of black

The Gap brand, owned by store proprietor Peter Mannox, is designed in New Zealand and made in China. Some of the sale items displayed the respected Mackenzie Country brand (also designed in NZ/made in China), usually priced around $150 a skirt.

Mum made her choice of 4 skirts and a zipped polo shirt, and after further concentrated cellphone tapping, I added a pair of $39 denim jeans to Katrina's pile. The supersale batch of jeans were corduroys priced at $19 but didn't offer a size and colour Katrina wanted. The shop assistant dropped the jeans a further $10 to match the corduroy price. She offered to do alterations while we waited, and she provided us with free coathangers.

Could a shopping experience ever be more unexpected? Who knows what treasures are hiding in small communities off the beaten track?

The Gap in Norsewood is a store we plan to keep an eye on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hold Onto Your Hat!

Ways to use a small piece of fabric

We're in an era of climate change, with the mercury scooting up and down 50 times a day it seems. Escalating power bills also render indoor climates less consistent. As a result, dressing for breakfast is predictably not going to be comfortable all the way through lunch.

I'm always on the lookout for adaptable clothing options. My closet (or suitcase) must at all times be stocked with garments and accessories that can be layered to accomodate my continued comfort. Perhaps you have a physique that handles climate alterations with perfect equinamity, but for those of us not that fortunate, I'm collecting practical solutions for a felicitious journey through Climate Change.

I left the house for my daily walk in the balmy sunshine of Spring when there was also a steady breeze and threatening clouds spilling over the ranges that still displayed traces of snow in odd crevices. My walk would take me through both sheltered and exposed portions of countryside. I didn't want to swelter under too many layers of clothing and sun rays, but nor did I like the thought of an icy wind dividing my unprotected members. The occasion called for adaptibility, unless I was willing to carry extra layers. Which I wasn't.

A denim jacket over cotton chemise, shirt, and cardigan took care of torso comfort. A cotton sunhat ($14 from The Warehouse) kept my face from getting sunburned (I hate wearing sun lotion). That is, until the breeze became too insistent. The crown of my hat was too shallow for it to remain sturdily on my head when the wind nudged.

I was prepared for this, with a scarf that was wide enough and light enough to act as a veil, the kind of thing you see Edwardian ladies wearing (examples provided in large proportions in the movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"), or if you prefer a trendier label, a hoodie.

The light weight of the scarf (100% viscose, $14 from Postie+) was sufficient to keep the hat on my head until the wind became really gusty, by which time the sun had disappeared and I could really feel that hint of snow. I tied a half knot in the scarf, pulled my collar close, and walked briskly until the sun came out again.

It always does, you know, but sometimes the wait can seem interminable. I reached my halfway rest stop, a convenient brick wall featuring an excellent country vista. The sky and temperature conditions continued to fluctuate and I juggled head gear to keep pace.

Scarf becomes Hoodie

Another benefit of my scarf-cum-hood became clear when the sun shone super-hot. My hat brim wasn't always wide enough to keep the sun off my face, but pulling the scarf close down the sides gave me admirable coverage yet without impairing my vision.

viscose scarf over cotton hat
lightweight but secure

A few days later, weather conditions were similar. I chose a hat with a deeper crown, one I hoped would stay on my head, but I draped a scarf around my neck just in case.

The wind soon proved to be more than insistent. The gusts swooped with gleeful energy. I promptly scarfed around and calmly continued my exercise without concern for my headgear. I'm telling you this because I returned from that walk in giggles.

Photographic inspiration came to me where there was a gate to lean on and a fence post to empty my bulging pockets onto. Completely caught up in the creative breezes, when my camera battery threatened to quit, I realized my pace hadn't varied much beyond a wander, so I tucked the camera into my jacket pocket and set off briskly against the wind to really stretch those muscles. On the way back the wind was behind me and I took out the camera again to record that the hat pinner was now a neck warmer (above). Suddenly I realized I was short of an item or two. Where were my glasses?

Behold a fence post!...but there should be two items on it...

Most spectacles are designed to improve vision. This pair have a camouflage option.

Moral of the story: When the winds blow, you could lose more than your hat.

Generally I take the camera with me to shoot flora and fauna. Finding Great Aunt Dora's Hat is a bonus. As every good photographer knows, if you don't have a camera on you at all times, you don't have the ability to grab those brilliant snaps.

Orange scarf dimensions: 54cm by 1700cm.
Yellow scarf 10cm longer and 10cm narrower.

Difference in hat crown depths:
Bone hat: 105mm
Blue hat: 77mm

The Ducking Initiation
Mama's kidding, right?

After 5 weeks of Mama Duck returning to this scene with her progeny, I saw 2 of the surviving 7 ducklings make the jump into the culvert and follow Mama out the other side. The other 5 scooted up the steep bank, across the road, and jumped down the other side.
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