Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

what I’ve been up to

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

I used to be a conscientious blogger. But then I decided to move countries, again. The result was an adventure that has not been easy. But here I am, back in my beloved Santa Monica, and life is starting to take shape once more.

My new book, Knitting Gifts for Baby has been released at last!

Here are a few photos from the inside pages:

Little Fishing Vest

Spring Blanket


Horseshoe Pullover


Cable Cape

There are 26 projects in total, for newborns and toddlers. I’m very proud of this book. If can say so myself, it’s beautiful. I did all the photo styling myself, and knitted all the projects. It was a labor of love.

For anyone who lives in Southern California, I’m teaching workshops at Compatto, on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. The green Spring blanket (above) is one scheduled for August.

I have a new passion. For a few years now I’ve been interested in small houses and their increasing popularity.  As anyone who visited me in Auckland will know, I lived in a rather large modern house. Many an evening David and I discussed how little of it we actually used. In fact we’d stride around the kitchen and living area and demonstrate to ourselves how wasteful we were.  While it’s wonderful to have space, there are heating, water and electricity costs, and padding around the big empty rooms reminds you that your family have left home, as if you needed a reminder. So here we are in California, about to buy a small house and put our money where our mouths are. Our object of desire is a teensy cottage in Ocean Park, just around the corner from Whole Foods  on Lincoln Blvd (walking distance, yes!), Rose Ave, and the beach. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with it as much depends on the state of the walls and foundations, which we’ll know more about once we take possession.We may renovate it, or we may build a new, small house.  This will keep me busy, so knitting is going to become for the first time in many years, my hobby.

Knowing this was going to happen, I’ve been deciding whether to continue with this blog or start a new one. I love knitting, but it’s not all of my story. I still haven’t decided and I welcome your input.

In the meantime, here are some photos of the Getty Center which I’ve visited several times since we’ve been back in LA. I love the outdoor spaces and the spectacular views even more than the galleries. I’m thinking that once I’m living in my small house I’ll be able to come here for a sense of grandeur.

terrace with the city Pacific Ocean in the distance

fabulous curves

later afternoon shadows

the rill

giant bouquets of bougainvillea above the pond








no ordinary person

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Before I left New Zealand I ruminated to the point of obsession on what I would miss once I left. I thought if I did this ahead of time I’d avoid unexpected attacks of sadness. No matter how much love your new home there is always something you will MISS. For me, it’s people. My dearest friends are there and it was very hard to leave them.

This is Dave Harré and his wife Barbara, two of the most extraordinary people you could ever meet.

They have several kids and grandchildren, all of whom lead fruitful and busy lives of their own, but can often be found helping out around the family homestead, or cooking one of the delicious meals that are always offered to the revolving parade of visitors. Everyone is welcome at Dave and Barbara’s house. And what a house it is. A 19th century homestead in Oratia on the outskirts of Auckland. Dave likes to restore and protect old things. The house is one of these. It was his family’s home, where his mother supported the family by running a restaurant on the premises. It’s a beautiful old villa set back from the road.

There is always a project on the offing, and collections of things that might be needed for that project

A recent undertaking was the wallpapering of a bedroom. Barb was papering the old fashioned way, on scrim.

Dave loves to restore things. He once heard of a prayer house that was tagged for demolition, rescued it and placed it on his land. He organizes recitals there in summer time. But trams and trains are his passion. He has already restored one and given it to the city of Whanganui. This is a train carriage he brought all the way from Arizona. He shortened it and is turning it into a self-powering tram, the track for which is being laid across the lawn. It will be a moving guest house when it’s finished. I can’t wait to try it!

his workshop

The whole property is in a state of elegant and controlled decay. That’s the way they like it. Location scouts do too.

Everything is perfect in its wildness. Whenever I’m there, I get inspired by the way nature is left to take it’s course with the minimum of interference. No perfectly mowed lawns or  preened flower beds here.

A vineyard on the property. The wine is good, and the bottles recycled.

Betsy trying her come hither look.


Let’s go inside the house. The dining room is lined with native kauri planks, on the walls and floor. Sitting at the table you feel like you’ve dropped in on another century. When I first met Dave it was at this table, over which hung a flickering light that was powered from a dam on a stream that crosses the property.  His very own hydro-electric power. Dave is inventive and prescient. He was doing things the authentic, slow way before the green movement was in diapers.

early New Zealand pottery

hand made textiles on every chair



Dave is a francophile. He ends most statements with total! pronounced the French way, and keeps this 2CV, bought during a family trip to France where they lived for a year in the Pyrénées.

No story of Dave would be complete without this one: on a trip to visit his nephew in Paris, he was wandering home one evening and found a pile of stuff discarded from a nearby building. Never one to lose an opportunity for a good fossick, he rescued a set of architectural drawings of a neo-classical house and this coat. Both came home in his suitcase. This is his attempt at a Napoleonic pose, sans chaussure.

A sense of mischief keeps Dave younger than his years. So does his generous spirit. When I was there taking photos for Everyday Finery, he appeared at lunchtime with a pot of hot soup for our whole team, models, photographer makeup and me. Thank you Dave. You’re a treasure.

Dave and Barbara created a folk art museum on their property which you can visit by appointment. It’s open Sundays 1-4 pm, at 527 West Coast Road, Oratia, Auckland. Phone number is 09 813 3884

Woodstock revisited

Monday, February 25th, 2013


Well, January was hijacked by the flu, so I have been silent. I really didn’t think a flu could be as bad as it was. I kept hoping it would be over in a couple of days, but oh, no. It’s a sneaky little virus that keeps returning for impromptu visits when you think you’re finally rid of it. But rid of it I now am, in Los Angeles too, and enjoying the sunny weather.

Now for my news. Knitters have been emailing me to ask when South Seas Knitting will be back in business. I’m sorry to say that it’s not going to be returning. David and I have made the decision to return to live in California for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is our kids and David’s Mum. We want to spend more time with them. Los Angeles will be our home once again.

What am I going to do with my incredibly large stash of yarn? I do have a plan. I’ll keep you posted as soon as I settle in here.

For now, I’d like to share with you another beautiful place in Woodstock. We love  that town and found ourselves heading back there after a snow storm.

This cottage was just across the road and down a bit from the last one and every bit as charming. We met the delightful owners Phil and Sarah, an English couple, in Brooklyn.

I’ll start with the outdoors:

Phil and Sarah’s place (which you can find here and here) is called Bearsville Retreat. It’s two small houses with a gorgeous swimming pool which we didn’t see because it was covered in snow!

It’s next to a family farm where they sell their own fresh maple syrup tapped from trees on the property, and where the owner rebuilt board by board the red barn that his thrifty father had taken down and stored.

a snowbound scottie


and a real dog, Rosie

bothering chipmunks under the house

from one apple tree to another……do you see why I want to return in spring?

to sit in this glider

or read Mrs Dalloway while sipping iced tea?

Stepping inside we took off our brand new sorels.

everything I love: color, crockery, hand made things


and a clean, well-equipped kitchen

We loved this place and I really do want to return in spring to swing in the hammock under the apple blossoms.

We said our goodbyes to Phil and Sarah

and they to us

Driving back to Brooklyn, David decided to take the New Jersey route which involved crossing Manhattan. By the way, the Apple navigation app works great. Ours has an Aussie accent because Davids’ phone was bought in NZ, so we call her Sheila and she guided us with 100% accuracy from start to finish with no annoying bells or “recalculating route” delays. She just gets on with the job and doesn’t make a fuss, a typical Down Under kind of a gal.

Crossing Manhattan, past the Chrysler building!

across the 59th Street bridge…….feelin’ groovy to be almost home

and what a view. I’m a nervous nelly in the passenger seat, but I sure was glad David was driving on this gorgeous day.