A bit of Quaker

I finally managed to put the final stitches into Part 2 of my Quaker RR:

Quaker RR Part 2

And here’s a comparison of mine and Nickis pieces hanging out together this evening – this photo is quite deceiving, as Nicki’s piece is quite a bit smaller than mine, I should take a photo of them side by side properly so you can see the difference, it’s awesome!:

Quaker RR twins

Then I started part 3, which is part 1 of 2 that I’m stitching on Nicki’s RR.  I have to admit I struggled a bit stitching this tonight, as the fabric’s high count is really hard to see … thank goodness for my Ott-Lite, or I don’t think I would be attempting it!  It will look really pretty once it’s stitched, though … it just might take me a bit longer than normal to stitch it! 😉

Nicki's Quaker RR 1

The highlight for me this weekend was having my ex-flatmate up to stay for the night in Sydney.  She flew off overseas this morning, but before she went we managed to have a great day out yesterday.  We drove out to Bondi Junction, which is a first for me – the Westfield shopping centre out there is awesome!  I totally fell in love with Norton St Grocers, and filled my basket up with wonderful fresh and healthy produce … thankfully my basket was too full by the time we came across the deli section, so I couldn’t stock up on non-healthy options … but, I’ll be back LOL.

Tonight I really enjoyed the fresh figs I’d bought yesterday … I can’t believe the difference between dried and fresh figs – fresh figs rock!!! 😀

Fresh figs

Lisa’s final farewell dinner

Katie and I put on a final farewell dinner for Lisa last night, and it was absolutely wonderful if I say so myself!  We’d discussed having crayfish months ago (aka Rock Lobster), and I said I’d treat us for the final meal … yesterday morning I took a trip out to the Sydney Fish Markets for the first time (and fell in love with them while I was there – I think I’ll be going there once a month to buy fresh fish!), and cried at the price tag, then cried again as they got yanked out of the tank and put into a bag with their litte tails still flapping … yikes …

Anyway, the shop put them out of their misery and sliced them into halves for me, and I picked up a fresh whole snapper to keep them company, along with a couple of tuna steaks.  I will definitely be living on bread and jam for the month of February (or at least until next payday) ‘cos the bank balance was emptied out hmmm, but a promise is a promise.  Katie made Pannecotta for dessert (which I’ve never had before) – oh boy it was scrummy!

We took some photos of the evening’s menus, so thought I’d share it (sorry Mum, I know you’re sitting there as green as a shamrock with jealousy! haha).

First of all we take some fresh crafish/rock lobster, and slice them in half…

Farewell Dinner 1

Then we sprinkle with cayenne pepper and a dash of sea salt, and baste with a marinade made from garlic, oil, lemon juice and brandy.  Eventually, after a couple of extra bastings during cooking, they’ll come out looking like this…

Farewell Dinner 2

Add a bit of potato slice bake (which unfortunatey looks like it’s mashed in this photo!), and add a basic tossed salad, and you have a scrummy meal that will have you sighing with satisfaction for hours afterwards.  Katie was ooh’ing and ahh’ing for ages, saying her taste buds were in ecstasy as every element of the meal was amazing – thanks Katie, that’s a huge compliment 🙂

Farewell Dinner 3

We had great fun at the end all trying to get into the crayfish legs for that final little fleshy morsel hiding in there – lots of giggles and cursing abounded LOL.  We even cleared and set the dining table for dinner … it was lovely eating all together … it’s only taken us 12 months to use it! LOL.

Farewell Dinner 4

Afterwards Katie was sent into the kitchen to finish off the preparations of her Pannecotta desserts – and this is the result … how beautiful do they look?  And they tasted just as beautiful! 🙂

Farewell Dinner 5

We ended the night by finishing off my Christmas present of chocolate port … just enough left in the bottle to half fill three glasses for the Three Musketeers … and here’s Katie’s self-portrait of us all at the end of the meal while we were sampling our ports.

Farewell Dinner 6

All in all a really wonderful night – we’re going to miss my flatmate Lisa a LOT … both at work and at home.  She will definitely be missed, bless her.

We were supposed to all be going to Manly for lunch today with other friends of Lisa’s for their farewell lunch, but I’ve woken up with my throat being worse, and heading to my chest, so I’ve decided to sit here with a mug of Lemsip and have pulled out of the festivities.  I figure it’s probably wiser for me to have a day sat around home vegetating than being a social butterfly and sharing my bugs further.  Never mind, I still have wonderful memories from last night to keep me warm and cosy today … I might even get some more stitching done! 😀

Where does time fly? (photo heavy)

Here we are – Christmas is past and the New Year is almost upon us … blimey, how did that happen?!!!

I spent a wonderful few days with Brenda and Nigel over in the northwest suburbs of Sydney for Christmas.  As usual Nigel did an exceptional job of Christmas dinner and we dined on turkey breast, baked ham, new potatoes, fresh beans and peas, followed by Nigel’s famous pavlova (the best I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying something as I’ve tried many; it was always my fave dessert growing up).  Nigel doesn’t drink, so Brenda and I made up for his allowance, and we definitely imbibed a fair bit over those few days … including a bottle of Iron Gate Sweet Shiraz that I brought back from the Hunter Valley, and now Brenda is in love with it too 🙂

Santa was very very generous to me this year – my flatmate Lisa spoilt me rotten with some yummy chocolate dessert sauces, whisk and tea-towel set, a little tub of Mango Daiquiri mix (ie just add booze and chill), a Frangipani calendar and a beautiful bottle of Chocolate Port from Flaschengeist in a Christmas tree shape … boy she has a good memory, and Brenda and I had to sample it on Christmas Day to complete our Christmas dinner festivities.  My other friend (who is about to become my new flatmate – see more below) bought me a beautiful blue and gold necklace and earring set, but I forgot to take a photo of it as I’m wearing it today!

Mum bought me a stunning greenstone (NZ Jade)  necklace (I chose it when I was in NZ), with a fish hook shape with a whale’s tale at the end … very pretty 🙂

Greenstone pendant from Mum

I also spend my Christmas money on an exquisite piece of glass sculpture – we hunted for the entire day for one with ‘just the right colourings’, and just as we’d given up we found one in downtown Auckland.  This is a “Koru”, or Silver Fern frond, and I just adore it to death.  Unfortunately the photo was taken without a light shining through it, so you can’t see the beautiful colours … I really must try to get a good photo of it.  Brenda really loved this one too.  Eventually I want to have a glass display cabinet which will house my stitching smalls, and this will sit on the top shelp with a spotlight on it to highlight the colourings 🙂

Koru in art glass

Brenda and Nigel gave me something that I will truly treasure always – Brenda does ceramic classes, and she’s done some incredible pieces … and this year she made me a Christmas keepsake that will bring years and years of happiness while it’s proudly on display.  Handmade gifts are the best, and I feel truly honoured to have one of her pieces to call my own!! 😀

Christmas gift from Brenda

Talking of exquisite hand-made gifts, I also finally remembered to take a photo of the stunning ornie that Katrina gave me for Christmas, and it’s proudly hanging on my hand-made ornie tree.  Thanks again Katrina, I really really love it!

Christmas ornie from Katrina

Today I went shopping after dropping my mobile phone off to be sent off for repair, and unexpectedly picked up a new Christmas tree with 75% off at Myer, which means this year is the final time I will have a teeny tiny wee tree … next year I will have a big 2m tall tree overpowering the lounge space … and I can’t wait!! haha.  Next year that should mean I can combine my bauble ornies with my hand-stitched ornies 😀

I did take a couple of photos of the various Christmas displays in my wee lounge to show Mum, including my set of 3 tables that the removalists tried to demolish (they broke 3 entire legs off of the largest one) – Nigel managed to glue them back together for me over Christmas, bless him, so I’m thrilled to have my tables back on display again yippee 🙂

Set of tables

Mum, this is the centrepiece display I was telling you about on the phone … I really love it!

Christmas coffee table

Christmas corner

Christmas lounge

Christmas trunk

And I finally “finished” another piece and put the ribbon around my flat-fold that I made quite some time ago (probably 2 years ago now!) – I love the bright red of the ribbon.

Snowman pinkeep

While I was shopping today I also scored a couple of cans of English Heinz Tomato Soup … ah, I’m in heaven!  The Aussie version of Heinz soup isn’t quite the same, so I had a wee splurge. Not in the photo is also a bag of lemon sherbet bon-bons and box of Black Knight licorice 😉

Heinz soup

I also picked up a couple of other treats … including a “fish on a stick” … this is also a photo for Mum’s benefit! I made a decision after visiting a shop with a marine/ocean/beach theme months ago that I really want to have that sort of theme for my lounge, and have been buying a couple of pieces every now and then (I think Susan set the seed with all of her dream home decor photos months and months ago, and it must have been sitting at the back of my brain all this time!) … first of all I bought some starfish for my coffee table when I had my girlie weekend away with Brenda and friends, and I’m now thinking of stitching some small shells along the edge of my sheer curtains … but now I have my own blue fish on a stick too! I also bought a wee tub of coral and shells to place in a plain glass bowl, but didn’t take a photo.

fish on a stick

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On a different note, last night I had a right royal treat – Tannia and her OH came to visit and stay the night. Even though it was a whirlwind visit, it was so lovely to see them both again – I miss them here in Sydney! I actually felt a bit flat after they left, and ended up taking the day off work to make up for a day I worked while in Auckland during my annual leave. Hence the reason I spent the day shopping, I think! I did feel really bad, though, ‘cos Tannia was her ever-thoughtful self and brought me some luscious gifts, and I had nothing to give in return … I’m such a bad friend! 😦

Friendship gift from Tannia

Thanks so much again Tannia, I love everything, and I miss you loads! {hugs}

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The final news that I intimated about earlier, is that my flatmate Lisa is heading back to Melbourne at the end of January.  Her secondment is up then and she’s not interested in renewing it for different reasons … some job-related and some personal reasons.  I’m going to miss having her around the place, as we’d become quite close over the last couple of months especially.  All is not lost, however, as Katie is going to be moving in instead – her own living situation isn’t great (her flatmate is a druggie and, although quite good fun, is quite strange!).  At least I won’t have to find someone else that I don’t know, and don’t have to struggle to make the rent on my own, which is great!  Fingers crossed it’ll all work out, and we find living together OK.

Rightio, I think that’s just about all the news for now … I’m a bit scatter-brained at the moment, so I’ve probably forgotten something! I thought I’d better hurry up and make a post, though, as New Year will be here in 2 nights, and it’s unlikely I’ll be back online until we’re already into 2009!

On that note, I’d like to wish you all a prosperous and wonderful 2009!! 😀

Napier/Hastings … final part (photo heavy again)

Alas, Tuesday came far too quickly, and it was time to pack up again for the return drive home.  We had a leisurely start to the day and didn’t leave the motel until 10am – we started of by driving to the Silky Oak Chocolate factory and museum, where we unexpectedly ended up spending a full two hours! Not only do they have a cafe serving great food (we ended up having brunch there), but they have a really interesting Museum all about the history of chocolate – it was fascinating, and definitely worth the visit! 😀

Eggs Benedict at Silky Oak Chocolate Napier
Eggs Benedict with Bacon

Raspberry and Pear muffin at Silky Oak Chocolate Napier
Raspberry & Pear Muffin

Silky Oak chocolates

Afterwards we drove into Napier township for a visit to the information centre and a wee walk around the waterfront and streets to take some photos of some of the Art Deco buildings – we enjoyed ourselves so much that we didn’t end up leaving Napier itself until 3pm … oops! 😉

Napier fountain

Pania of the Reef Napier
One of my fave sculptures – “Pania of the Reef

Pohutukawas in bloom Napier gardens
Napier waterfront gardens, with Pohutukawa trees in bloom

If any of you are interested in Art Deco building styles, here is a selection for you.  For those of you who aren’t aware, Napier CBD was flattened by a devastating earthquake in 1931, and all of the buildings were rebuilt during the same era, giving Napier the reputation of being the capital of Art Deco architecture due to having so many buildings of that style in such a small area.

ArtDeco 1

ArtDeco 2

ArtDeco 3

ArtDeco 4

We finished off our trip to Napier by stopping at a couple of fruit sellers stalls to stock up on beautiful fresh produce.  That’s one thing I really love about NZ, there are plenty of local growers selling their fresh produce – and their quality and flavour is far superior to anything you can buy in the supermarkets.  My special treats over the couple of days away (as we bought some other fruit the previous day) were fresh strawberries (to die for!), apricots (one of my all-time fave fresh fruits), boysenberries (can’t remember the last time I saw them fresh since moving to Oz), blueberries, and black cherries … oh boy, I’m drooling again just remembering them!!!  Sheer heaven – I ADORE summer fruits 😀

Napier boysenberries

Napier blueberries

Napier cherries

We finished off our gourmet couple of days with dinner in Taupo, at the Waterside Restaurant & Bar – here the food was blissful and the service great … yet again, here are the gourmet delights we troughed through:

Taupo Dinner 1
Chicken Salad for Mum

Taupo Dinner 2
Lamb Fillet with asparagus, with Greek Tsatziki & balsamic jus for me – drool

Looking back, one of the other things that brought a smile to my face and a lump to my throat was to see all the Pohutukawa trees in bloom – these are affectionately known as the “New Zealand Christmas tree”, and their red bloom is a real delight to behold.  Tales say that if the trees bloom before Christmas, we will be in for a long hot summer … personally I just love to see their blooms colouring the skyline.

2008 12 15_1244

2008 12 15_1245

Pohutukawa blossom with bee

Other things that I loved being in NZ, was that you can buy L&P everywhere you turn your head … even at the humble pie cart in an outdoor market – ah bliss 😉

Pie Cart blackboard

It was great to see the Auckland icon, the Auckland Sky Tower, with its impressive bulk shadowing over the CBD.

Auckland Sky Tower

And not to mention the vast lush “green-ness” of the countryside – unfortunately I didn’t get a great photo of it as it started to cloud over on the way home from Napier, and then rained off and on the entire way home to Auckland 😦

Rolling green hills of Hawkes Bay

But one of my biggest treats was to spend a week in the warmth of Mum’s Christmas tree – her tree has brought delight to my soul for as long as I can remember, and I made sure my final night in Auckland was spent huddled in the lounge with the warm glow of the Christmas lights … and a rare night of familial bliss as we all sat and watched the Christmas in the Park show on TV, followed by an hour of Aussie and Kiwi stand-up comics … what a great way to finish off a great holiday! 😀

Mums Xmas tree 2008

I have come home with many beautiful gifts – but no photos yet as they were bought using Christmas money, so they’re wrapped up under the tree … I’ll share photos after Christmas. What I can share, though, is the wonderful treat from Mum – a set of Prairie Schooler Santa ornies … I just adore these, and will treasure them always! Thanks so much Mum, you’re a sweetheart! 😀

Mums Prairie Schooler Santas for me

Napier/Hastings … part 2 (photo heavy)

The next morning we had a tour booked with the Gannet Safaris company – our destination was the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. We’ve done this trip years once before years ago, but we took a tractor ride up the beach to the colony … this time the trip took us by 4WD mini-coach overland through hilly sheep farms – Mum wasn’t too keen on the sheer drops off the cliffs and hillsides, but we were both impressed at not having to climb the steep path up to the colony from the beach level, as the coach drops you off right at the colony itself!

On the way to the Cape we drove through a Cape Kidnappers Station, and were lucky to catch one of them getting the sheep ready for shearing – here are a couple of photos of our infamous Kiwi sheep (of which 95% of Kiwi jokes are aimed at!), and the sheepdog hard at work herding into the pens (not bad photos considering they were taken through the coach window glass) 🙂

Sheep at Cape Kidnappers

Sheep station at work Cape Kidnappers Napier

We had a short stop at the top of the cliffs to enjoy the view of Hawke Bay (which is the actual Bay, as opposed to the region, which is called Hawkes Bay), and here we were treated to seeing a really big school of dolphins swimming around after the fish that must have been there – it was breathtaking seeing so many in one place … unfortunately we were too far away to take really great photos, but here’s just a small handful of the dolphins that we could see. I reckon there must have been about 20-30 in the school … just incredible!

Cliffs of Cape Kidnappers Napier

School of Dolphins 1

When we got up to the colony I was in my element … I tend to love birds of all kinds, not just ducks, and could’ve spent hours and hours watching the gannets. They’re the most amazing birds, and this time of year we were extra lucky to see the chicks hatched and being cared for by their parents – they’re incredibly ugly babies, but they certainly grow up to be something truly majestic and wonderful!!!  I love this photo of the protective parent and his/her chick 🙂

Gannets 3 with baby

Both Mum and I loved to see how affectionate the gannet couples are – the male and female birds take turns to look after the egg/chick while the other fishes for food, then when they return to the nest there’s much noise and ‘hugging’. Apparently their wing span reaches approx 2m across, and they’re glorious to see in flight. I couldn’t choose just one photo, so you get a few different shots to look at if you’re interested 🙂

Gannets 1

Gannets 2

Gannets 4

Gannets 5Another colony off the coast (view from the lighthouse)

Gannets 6

After the gannets, we drove out to Taradale where we had a splurge of a gourmet lunch at Church Road vineyard … the food was delicious and the glass of Reserve Chardonnay was sublimely out of this world (although at $36 a bottle we opted not to leave with more, however tempting it was!).

Church Road lunchAoraki Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Salad with poached egg, lemon
beurre blanc & kumara crisps – yum!!!

Church Road dessertWalnut Tart with quince & maple & whiskey ice cream – yum again!!!

Finally to finish off the afternoon we drove to JJ’s Crafts (BTW Katrina and Kath, it’s now moved to 14 Glouchester Street, Greenmeadows), where we picked up some Christmas fabrics and a fabric that will hopefully be suitable to finish the infamous Just Nan’s Evening Star (as to date I’ve been unable to find anything remotely suitable locally – the colours in the stitching are just very difficult to match). I also picked up a packet of rustic bells after seeing them on Kath’s Christmas tree.

Stash fabric Napier Dec08

Unfortunately we ran out of time to visit Heirlooms, but that will definitely be first on the list for the next visit! 😀

As we’ d had a full-on day, and a big dinner at lunchtime, we headed back to the motel to have light nibbles before bed, before we returned home the next day.

Sunday … not quite a day of rest!

I just realised I haven’t finished posting about our girlie weekend away last weekend … so here’s the final instalment – that is, if I can remember everything now!!!

After imbibing a fair bit of vino on the Saturday, and the fact I was driving, we took it a lot easier on the Sunday as far as alcohol intake was concerned.  That doesn’t mean to say we cut back on the places we visited or the enjoyment we got … we sure as heck made the most of the day, and couldn’t have crammed any more into it if we tried!

Our first port of call was into the nearby factory showroom of the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, where we sampled different fudges and chocolate – and we all came out with little packages of fudge for a treat when we got back home.  We’d been told there was a chocolate fountain there, where you could dip in strawberries and marshmallows, but alas we’d been wrongly advised.  We did find out, however, that they had another shop at one of the vineyards, so we added that to our “must do” list for later 🙂

Then we continued on to Adina Wines, as Lisa wanted to try some Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio wines, and none of the vineyards we visited on the Saturday has this varietal.  Adina was on the way to our next official destination, so we called in for a spot of wine-tasting for Lisa.  It worked too, as she happily came away with some spoils from there, as well as learning the differences between the Gris and Grigio names (one is from the Italian region, and the other French) – good to know they’re essentially the same thing!

After Adina, we continued to our first destination, which was Drayton’s Family Wines (you may remember the name as the one in the news a couple of years ago when there was an explosion in the vineyard where the one of the vintners was killed and someone seriously injured/burned) – I totally fell in love with a Chocolate Port that I’d bought from Flaschengeist in Melbourne, but haven’t been able to find who actually makes it … anyway we heard that Drayton’s do a Chocolate Port so that was our first official port of call.  Unfortunately the port was nothing like the one I loved, so it didn’t come home with us … however after sampling the “Christmas pudding in a glass” I fell in love with their Muscat, so that was my treat for the morning.

Our next stop was a few metres up the road, back to Robyn Drayton’s where we’d bought the white port from the previous day.  Our plan here was to have a Devonshire Tea – and it was as scrummy as we’d hoped for 😀

Robyn Drayton

After our Devonshire Tea, we drove back to Pokolbin Village Shops where we spent a fair bit of time in the Smelly Cheese Shop sampling cheeses and stocking up on some to bring home.  We also bought a few more gourmet delights as well, finishing off with a Gelati.

After the shops we visited another winery – this time Brokenwood Wines.  I tried their Sangiovese wine, while the girls tried a few of their whites.  I don’t think we bought anything from there (shock, horror!), as you can generally buy their wines from bottle shops at a much lower price.  Most of the other vineyards we’d bought from only sell from the cellar door.

Our final wine stop for the day was to Peterson’s Champagne House, where Hunter Valley Chocolate Company had a lovely shop set up … along with their chocolate fountain, woohoo!!  It was a compulsory purchase of strawberries on a stick covered in warm chocolate from the chocolate fountain … sheer bliss!  We then popped really quickly to the next door building to check out the sparkling wines (Katie’s favourite) where both of the girls came out with a bottle of Blush each 🙂

We finished the day off with a spot of girlie pampering at the local Reflections Day Spa where Lisa and I both had a 1/2 hour relaxation massage, and I had my eyebrows shaped and eyelashes tinted … what an awesome end to an awesome weekend!  (I’d really hoped for a remedial massage, as I’ve been suffering quite badly with neck pain and stiffness over the last couple of weeks, but the guy who does them wasn’t there that day – a relaxation massage was a good alternative, though).  After our relaxation we drove home singing along to Christmas carols … life just doesn’t get better than that!! 😀

It’s only the second ‘real’ girlie weekend I’ve had (the first one was having a weekend away at Toowoon Bay in October), and I hope it won’t be the last … it was awesome!!!

Since we’ve been home I’ve done one whole row of about 20 smyrna crosses for my current stitching projec, and that’s about it!  My stitching has been non-existent, so I hope to get a couple of hours in this morning to make up for it.  Then the rest of the day will be spent doing housework and getting the place ready to have the Christmas decorations put up, so not much stitching to be had this week, me thinks.  Next weekend is a write-off as well, as we have our Christmas party on Friday night, followed by a stitching GTG at Karen’s on Saturday (really looking forward to that), followed by a holiday back home – so you’re unlikely to see much posting from me between now and Christmas … with any luck, thought, I might get a tiny bit of stitching done in NZ! 😀