Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Lotusland

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Thank you thank you lovely readers for your words of encouragement! You’ve given me renewed enthusiasm!

Let me tell you about one of the best days of my life so far.

It was my birthday. And a big one. David asked me how I wanted to spend it,  and received the strictest instructions of the “don’t you dare” variety not to organize a surprise party. Eeew. I’m phobic about being the center of attention.

One doesn’t really want to think too much about such a birthday let alone come up with a way to celebrate it, so I was quite pleased with myself for remembering that ever since I’ve lived in LA I’ve wanted to visit Lotusland, the garden in Montecito.

Montecito is just south of Santa Barbara. If you’re visiting the LA area, and you like plants, it’s a must see. Due to parking restrictions, reservations are required. Information here. This is because the neighbors on the surrounding estates were not keen on it being open to the public, so they struck a compromise and restricted the number of cars that could be there at any one time. If you’ve ever driven around the meandering Montecito roads and wondered what’s behind the grandiose gates, this is your chance to look inside.

It was the most beautiful day in every imaginable way, not the least least of which was my family surprising me and showing up to accompany us.

lotus land
A place or state of languid contentment.
[After the Land of the Lotus-eaters in the Odyssey]

I love gardens, especially Southern California/Mediterranean gardens.

This one was established by an eccentric Polish woman and sometime opera singer, Madame Ganna Walska, who married a succession of rich men, hence accumulating wealth which she chose to spend on a 37-acre garden. I can’t think of a better way to spend a fortune. Her style is distinct and very beautiful, with large numbers of any particular plant and in some cases, like cycads, plants that no longer exist in the native habitat. She could never buy just one of anything, or even 10, she bought hundreds. This was her style. It gives a feeling of lushness and plenty and is visually stunning.

The climate in Montecito is my kind of perfect, not too hot, with ocean breezes that make a garden tour on a sunny day a very pleasant thing to do.

First sight on beginning our tour: a lemon-covered pergola. What a fantastic idea.

I won’t attempt to name all the plants since I didn’t have the good sense to write them down and now I don’t remember but this one we all know – an organ pipe cactus about to flower

prickly pear

multitude

beautiful sculptural agave

California live oak

olives – hey, I’m doing all right with my naming so far

one of several ponds, this one edged with abalone shells in the shape of lotus flowers

giant clam shell waterfall

in the Japanese garden

large pond filled with lotus

is this bamboo?

just when you’re completely dazzled by the combinations of bright green and silver, you come across the pink residence and signs of Delft

does anyone know what plant this is?

Dracaena from Africa. Lotusland has a spectacular collection.

the fern garden – masterful plantings of trees give it shade.

Even though my small house will have only a tiny space for a garden, I’m inspired by Madame to make it beautiful.

Mel

 

 

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

maze

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

tivaevae

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